Will the Endangered Mariana Fruit Bat throw a wrench into military buildup plans?

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Mariana Fruit Bat or Fanihi (Pteropus mariannus mariannus). This endangered species has cultural significance to the Chamoru people. As an endangered species, the federal government designated “critical habitat” for the survival and recovery of the species which includes Ritidian point limestone forests, much of Rota, areas on Tinian and a number of the smaller uninhabited islands.  Critical habitat designation has been controversial among Chamoru people because it is seen as adding another layer of federal control over their native lands and resources. However, listing of endangered species and critical habitat designation in this case may provide added leverage against the proposed military buildup.

The Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Mariana Fruit Bat or Fanihi (Pteropus mariannus mariannus) states:

Urbanization and other forms of development remain a threat to the Mariana fruit bat.  This threat may manifest as fragmentation or degradation of forest habitat, direct disturbance of bats, and/or increased likelihood of new introductions of the brown treesnake or other predators to islands.  On Guam, development takes the form of urbanization associated with an increasing population and tourism industry and the expansion and refurbishment of military infrastructure.  On Rota and Tinian, development includes the clearing of lands set aside as agricultural homesteads (CNMI Senate Bill 13-32, C.S. 1, November 2002; CNMI Senate Bill 14-44, S.S. 1, July 2004), military infrastructure and new businesses such as the casino on Tinian.  On Saipan, increasing urbanization, road building, and the tangantangan charcoal industry are ongoing issues of concern.

The Department of Defense has several military installations and training programs in the Mariana Islands.  The Department of Defense live fire and bombing exercises on Farallon de Medinilla have effectively precluded that island as a foraging or roosting site for fruit bats.  However, survey crews in 1996 and 2008 each observed a single bat on the island, indicating that Farallon de Medinilla may still function as a stopover site for bats in transit (A. Brooke, pers. comm., 2009).  Recent and new activities proposed by the U.S. Air Force at Andersen Air Force Base on northern Guam have been determined likely to adversely affect fruit bats under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, prompting formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to estimate the risk of take and develop measures to avoid and minimize that take.

As of this writing, the Department of Defense is developing Environmental Impact Statements for new training, development, and other activities on Guam and in the CNMI associated with the redeployment of a U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Force from Okinawa to the Marianas.  We do not currently have sufficient information to summarize in this draft revised recovery plan the potential threat to fanihi posed by these actions and will evaluate these proposed activities under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act once the data have been provided.

In other words, the military’s Draft EIS for the Guam military buildup in insufficient.  The EPA has already slammed the EIS.  Now USFWS can be pressed to disallow activities that will threaten the survival and recovery of the Fanihi.    The USFWS page on the Fanihi is here: http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A07X



Posted at 1:13 p.m., Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Feds devise recovery plan for Marianas fruit bat

Associated Press

HONOLULU — The federal government has developed a plan to help revive the threatened Mariana fruit bat.

The species, known as fanihi in Chamorro, is found only in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The bat’s fur is black and brown, and it has a wingspan of about 3 feet. Some people call the fanihi flying foxes because their faces resemble canines.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday its draft management plan for the species would reduce or eliminate hunting to allow fanihi numbers to increase.

The agency also aims to protect of the best existing fanihi habitat.

Most fanihi now live north of Saipan on relatively isolated islands in the Marianas archipelago.

The agency is accepting comments on the plan through June 28.

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Aloha Aina has united environmental, peace, anti-nuclear, women s, religious and Kanaka Maoli sovereignty and independence groups.

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