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Excess federal lands returned to Guam

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - 450 acres of excess federal land was returned to Guam today in the nation's capitol. The land returned includes the Historic Hilaan Village and the path to the Lost Pond area at South Finegayan. Much of what's being returned has significant, historical value. 

The former Navy property was declared excess in 1996 with the passage of the Guam Excess Lands Act. The land is not part of the Navy's commitment to have a net negative footprint on Guam as part of the military buildup. Governor Eddie Calvo signed the memorandum of agreement in Washington, DC today. The island's chief executive recognized the years of hard work to get to this point put in Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and her predecessor, Robert Underwood.

"It's good news because I think the military is offering this idea that they're not going to increase their land footprint on the island," Underwood told KUAM News. "They're giving back this 450 acres, which is required by the law. They didn't just come up with it all of a sudden. It is law. But that it isn't a part of their plans for the military buildup."

A portion of the land being returned holds much of the island's rich history, specifically in Hilaan Village. "It is as valuable, if not more valuable or a greater archeological find than Pagat itself. This is a very important area of land. We ought to study it. The land has probably been settled longer or as long as any particular property on Guam," said Underwood.

Director of the Micronesian Area Research Center Dr. John Peterson says with GovGuam now in possession of the land, it's a great opportunity to learn about the latte village sites located there and so much more. "When Fred Reinman surveyed it in the 1960s,he indicated that it was of a kilometer long, with three different coves, about 200 meters back from the shoreline to the base of the cliff, there were 18 to 20 latte sets on the property, which is a really large latte habitation area," he explained.

He says the area also has caves probably filled with artifacts, adding, "It was probably a pretty big settlement. It was also occupied as a village during the Spanish Period up to about 1850, it was called Hilaan. But before that, well at least through the Latte Period, there's a very good chance with that long distance from the shoreline, we might be able to find the very old settlements like we have done at Ritidian."

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