Wildlife poaching alleged on Guam
TOKYO — An environmental worker at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam has filed a complaint with the Pentagon saying base officials allow illegal poaching and encroach on protected habitats.
Nancy Mitton, Andersen’s natural resources specialist, filed the complaint Thursday with the Defense Department’s inspector general, according to a news release by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The group works with government workers involved in environmental management.
Andersen officials confirmed Friday afternoon the news of the complaint and Mitton’s position at Andersen.
An Air Force spokeswoman declined to comment directly about the accusations.
"Since it is under the IG’s office as a complaint, it’s wrong for us comment on it either way," Maj. Richelle Dowdell said in a telephone interview. "We’re very proud of our [environmental] record."
Mitton’s complaint includes accusations that base officials allow volunteer conservation officers to poach coconut crabs and deer, according to the release from the public employees group.
Volunteer conservation officers help control the population of hooved animals, such as pigs and deer on base, according to Dowdell. The volunteers are either servicemembers, civilian workers or others affiliated with the federal government, she said.
Many military bases have such volunteers, she said, and they must be approved by base officials.
Nesting areas for endangered hawksbill turtles and green sea turtles are harmed by such projects as paving beaches and stripping vegetation, the release said.
The release also said base officials allow pets to run unleashed through some of the sensitive wildlife areas and that base volunteers are allowed to leave base without any search of their vehicles.
Andersen base commander Brig. Gen. Philip Ruhlman said in a statement Friday that the allegations will be taken seriously and examined thoroughly.
He also noted that in August 2008 the Guam Environmental Protection Agency recognized Andersen with its Environmental Excellence Award for Community-Base Programs. The base recently completed a multiyear, $20 million restoration project of a cliff and built a fence around the north runway to protect the Mariana fruit bat population, he added.
In her complaint, Mitton said the base’s bat population has dropped by half, according to the public employee group’s release.