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Military proposes to relocate Guam's wildlife refuge to Urunao

Updated: Mar 24

Photo courtesy of USFWS

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Plans are afoot for the relocation of the wildlife refuge in Ritidian, which is currently located within the new safety buffer area around the live-fire training range complex for the Marines.


The Navy has identified three potential relocation sites in Dededo, where topographic surveys will commence at the end of March and conclude by June.

Camp Blaz earlier reported that training facilities that will be used by the Marines who will be relocated from Okinawa to Guam are nearing completion.

Last year, the Marine Corps Systems Commands Program Manager for Training Systems started conducting target calibration and live-fire testing, which marked the very first live-fire activity at the live-fire training range complex.

“Headquarters Marine Corps is developing an environmental assessment to analyze the potential environmental effects of the proposed construction of replacement facilities, infrastructure, and access on the refuge,” said Maj. Diann Rosenfeld, Camp Blaz's communications director.

The topographic surveys will take place along Highway 3A, Urunao Road, the vegetation between Urunao Road and the cliff line, the Recreational Access Road and Jeep Trail.

Uruno Beach is located southwest along the coast from Ritidian Point along unimproved gravel roads. The vicinity contains an archaeological site with prehistoric cultural remains listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The Ritidian wildlife refuge, which is under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's jurisdiction, provides habitat for the last remaining populations of the endangered Mariana fruit bat, Mariana crow, and the Serianthes nelsonii tree. The Ritidian Unit is an active sea turtle nesting area. 

“In accordance with previous laws and agreements, the Department of the Navy will relocate the existing Department of Interior facilities outside of the safety buffer area but still within the refuge,” Rosenfeld said.

The safety buffer area over a portion of the refuge was authorized under the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and a subsequent relocation plan was signed between the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Interior in 2020.

“The hazardous materials surveys are taking place around refuge, where existing infrastructure to include: the visitor center and parking lot; Fish and Wildlife administration building, parking lot, maintenance shop, and nursery; and the guard shacks,” Rosenfeld said.

The topographic, hazardous materials and geotechnical surveys will assist in the environmental assessment.

A geotechnical survey involves boring, sampling, testing and reporting on the soil consistency and structure, groundwater level and other physical characteristics of the land.

"Vibrations from the drilling will not impact nearby caves. The borehole is a 4-inch diameter maximum and vibration from the drilling extends only a few feet away from the borehole," Rosenfeld said. “To our knowledge, no previous hazardous materials surveys have been conducted at the existing facility."

The target areas contain aging buildings with hazardous materials that will be assessed to ensure safety of workers, Rosenfeld said.

She said archaeological monitors will be on site during topographic and geotechnical surveying to inspect soil and sediments and to record any new cultural deposits and archaeological features.


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