Governor considers Ritidian landowners' input - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Governor considers Ritidian landowners' input

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo opened his door to hear the plight of Ritidian landowners. Their hope is for the feds to right a wrong in taking their property over 21 years ago.

With the Department of Defense announcing Northwest Field as its preferred alternative for a live fire training range the military has maintained it's a requirement that a surface danger zone be designated at the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge. "First of all it was an interesting historical lesson for me," Calvo said.

At the request of Ritidian landowners they met with Governor Eddie Calvo late this afternoon to share their story. It's a story that began when their property was taken away by the feds in 1963 under eminent domain. In 1993, Ritidian was deemed excess by the US military however instead of it being returned to the original landowners it was taken by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which turned it into the wildlife refuge. 

Christopher Bejado represents Ritidian families and said, "Right now we are really questioning what is going on down there for the past 21 years what is the Fish and Wildlife been going as part of their mission and mandate since taking over in 1993 up to the current date. so we want to know what is going on down there we see there's a big fence going on down there they're talking about rehabilitating the koko bird but in reality its been 21 years, what has happened in the last 21 years?" he said.

When reminded that the SDZ being proposed and military staying its required, Bejado said, "The touchy part the proposed live fire training range surface danger zone brings to light our issues with the Fish and Wildlife because with the proposal HR4402 in creating that danger zone brings to light our issues but it also gives us the fact that DOI and DOD making an MOU regarding proposed maintenance for FWS and possibly Navy taking control of that area brings to light whether does Fish and Wildlife really need to be there? And we should have a rightful claim if the FWS is willing to relocate and move to another property. Why not the original landowners take their land back if they're willing to get up and move we should come and back in and take our land back?"

"If you're willing to give up throw your hands up and say you know what we're willing to move then you know it says you really didn't need that property."

As a result of this afternoon's meeting the governor says he and his will work with Ritidian families in not just providing more information on the impact of a surface danger zone but also righting the wrong against these families. "For many of them they're patriotic Guamanians and Americans and they are also people that believe that they were wronged and if there's a way for me to reconcile this military buildup and realignment of forces in to Guam as well as deal with the issues that they've brought up that's what my objective is how can we resolve these issues that they brought up," he said.

Ritidian families have requested through Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's office an audience with National Wildlife Refuge system chief James Kurth who is currently in Guam. They are also hoping to meet with the congresswoman while she is on island.

Meanwhile the Republicans in the legislature penned a letter to Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo expressing their support for her bill HR4402 which would allow authorize a surface danger zone over the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge.  They are also asking that that she add HR4402 as an amendment to the proposed National Defense Authorization Act. The Republican senators say they consider this year's NDAA to be an opportunity to get the military buildup back on track.
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