By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Joint Region Marianas has identified two parcels of land, measuring 64 acres combined, that can accommodate the livestock industry on Guam, JRM Commander Ben Nicholson said.
JRM explored the feasibility of leasing defense lands for cattle grazing operations to address the island's food security, promote local economic growth and push industry diversification to include slaughterhouse operations.
"One parcel is 45 acres and could support up to 22 head of cattle (per U.S. Department of Agriculture standards), and the other is 19 acres which could support up to 10 head of cattle," Nicholson said in response to Congressman Michael San Nicolas' inquiry.
Nicholson said the 45-acre parcel, which is an integral part of an existing airfield, is covered by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules that entail certain operational restrictions.
"The FAA may place limiting parameters for livestock activities on this parcel. For example, concentrated feedlots and similar operations are identified by FAA as incompatible due to increased bird/aircraft strike hazards associated with higher density livestock lots," Nicholson said. " The 19-acre parcel may be too small for commercial ranching."
While there are other sizable military-owned properties on Guam, Nicholson said JRM focused on sites that are deemed suitable for cattle grazing.
"These initial 64 acres were not only found to be available, but were further found to be suitable, as not just any plot of land is serviceable for grazing purposes, and we are grateful for JRM taking the extra steps to ensure that the end goal is achievable with the lands they identify," San Nicolas said.
Nicholson said more properties may be explored later as the Department of Defense is currently evaluating its land inventory while scouting for potential sites to build Guam's missile defense system.
"As you are aware, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has been tasked to design a Guam Defense System providing Guam 360 degree coverage from missile threats," Nicholson said. "As a result, MDA has identified potential key DoD lands that will meet this objective."
While site selections may take time to finalize, Nicholson said additional ranching areas might become available upon completion of site analysis.
In the meantime, San Nicolas said the local government must do its own homework.
"As we look forward to potentially more acres being added to this inventory at the conclusion of the MDA assessment, we again call on the local government to do a similar assessment with GovGuam land inventories, so that we can build further grazing capacity to support our community with local meat products," he said.