“We need to have commitment from our leaders right away, before they start taking the next steps. Once the bulldozer comes, it's too late.”
– Sabina Perez, Prutehi Litekyan
As of press time, a petition calling on local and national leaders to halt a proposed Live Fire Training Range Complex at Northwest Field garnered 4,163 signatures, according to Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, a Guam-based advocacy group.
The petition, along with the formation of the group earlier in March, has come a long way since its inception.
Holding onto just over 1,000 signatures over the course of five months, numbers started to skyrocket as signs of support flooded the online petition after Prutehi Litekyan held a wave at the intersection of the ITC building in Tamuning earlier this month, according to spokesperson Sabina Perez.
The group has advocated to local lawmakers over the past few months to put a stop to the construction of a proposed firing range at Northwest Field, which is near Ritidian.
Saving for solutions
According to the group, the military installation would jeopardize endangered species, water resources, ancient burial grounds and the island’s sole “Hayun Lagu” tree, a plant species native to Guam and Rota.
According to Post files, military officials have stated that the firing range would be secured with a safety zone for stray ammunition at the proposed area, avoiding potential damage to its surrounding environment above the Ritidian wildlife refuge.
In line with the 2011 Programmatic Agreement, which outlines the proposal, the military is required to avoid any potential threat to historic sites. However, Perez said that a buffer zone would do little to mitigate the effects of a live firing range.
Perez added that the opposing group learned of an angle for local lawmakers to respond to the potential threat, but has been unable to meet with Gov. Eddie Calvo and military officials to discuss new options.
According to the advocate, Guam’s State Historic Preservation Office has the power to put brakes on the project if amendments were made to the Programmatic Agreement.
Prutehi Litekyan urged the preservation office and local lawmakers to include an amendment that would remove Ritidian from the listed area of potential impact for militarization efforts, Post files state.
The group also called for the adoption of a policy that protects cultural and historical sites and the disclosure of information held by GovGuam in regards to State Historic Preservation Office undertakings in conjunction with the Department of Defense.
‘Crucial time for us’
According to Perez, the Guam group has requested to meet with Calvo in regards to the authority of the preservation office, but has not been able to due to the governor’s schedule.
Robert Crisostomo, director of Adelup’s Military Buildup Office, said Prutehi Liktekyan’s concerns are a “high-importance item,” but would need to be arranged around the governor’s “hectic schedule.”
In the meantime, the direct action group’s petition continues to gain traction and addresses Calvo, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, Speaker Benjamin Cruz, Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje and U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop, Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“We need to have commitment from our leaders right away, before they start taking the next steps. Once the bulldozer comes, it’s too late,” Perez said.
Even with growing support, the advocate said that lines of communication have remained closed between concerned community members, local lawmakers and military officials.
Prutehi Litekyan has urged the Guam Legislature to put a temporary restraining order on the approaching project so that lawmakers may visit the areas concerned.
According to Perez, the matter is “down to the wire” as far as when military officials and lawmakers will bridge communication before the proposed project develops.
“We’re still continuing our campaign of public awareness and lobbying, but now is a very crucial time for us.”