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United States Fish & Wildlife Service And the Community of Vieques, Puerto Rico

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United States Fish & Wildlife Service And the Community of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Punta Arenas. What is USFWS?.

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United States Fish & Wildlife Service

And the Community of Vieques, Puerto Rico

Punta Arenas

what is usfws
What is USFWS?
  • “The US Fish and Wildlife Service mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the community and future generations.” - US F&WS
  • “I’m here to do my push the navy to clean up Vieques, and to conserve what has not been damaged.” - Oscar Diaz-Marrero (Director of Vieques F&W office)
  • Units of the FWS include the National Wildlife Refuge system, Bird Habitat Conservation, the Federal Duck Stamp, the National Fish Hatchery System and the Endangered Species Program. 
  • FWS is divided into nine regions encompassing different portions of the United States.  The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is in the Southeast division.
why does vieques have the fish and wildlife refuge
Why does Vieques have the Fish and Wildlife Refuge?
  • On May 1st 2001 The United States NAVY turned over 3,100 acres on the West side of the island formally used as ammunition storage to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • On May 1st 2003 the United States NAVY halted maneuvers on the island of Vieques and turned over almost all their land (14,500 acres) to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • The Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act of 2001, along with Public Law No. 106-398, as amended by Public Law No. 107-107, authorized the land transfer of former military lands to the Dept. of the Interior, and in this case the USFWS.
  • Under the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, all refuges are controlled under the same Congressional mandate. Under these laws the land now classified as F&W will continue until the United States Congress decides otherwise.
  • In the case of Vieques, the Dept. of the Interior didn’t want or even ask for the Vieques lands.
refuge for whom vieques and the uses of a bombing range
Refuge for Whom?:Vieques and the Uses of a Bombing Range
  • Stated in the Wilderness Act of 1964, ‘wilderness’ is described as areas:
    • “in their natural state”,
    • “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man”
    • “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature with the imprint of mans work substantially unnoticeable”
    • “has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and confined type of recreation”
  • Some refuges like Ritidan Point in Guam didn’t ask for funding for its first seven years as a wildlife refuge for birds, “does not reflect well on an agency whose responsibility it is to protect wildlife, not acquire federal land.” – Rep. Robert Underwood
  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is contaminated with chemical weapons and pesticides by Shell Oil. This site is declared a ‘superfund’ sight, and unlike Vieques, the military is not ‘officially’ transferring the land to F&WS until after the cleanup.
  • Some refuges like Edwin Forsythe National Refuge in New Jersey and Crab Orchard National Refuge in Illinois are examples of refuges that allow complete human access, and contain UXO.
  • A 1994 found that 90% of refuges allowed ‘secondary’ human uses like camping, and picnicking.
  • Since 1988:
    • 34 military bases have been closed and are on the EPA’s national Priorities List (Superfund sites)
    • Only 3 sites are Superfund & Fish and Wildlife: Vieques (PR), Adak Island (AK), and Rocky Mountain Arsenal (CO)

John Lindsay-Poland

TFLAC (Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean

Presented at the Congress of Latin American Studies Association

naval ammunition facility
Naval Ammunition Facility

naval maneuver area camp garcia atlantic fleet training center
Naval Maneuver Area (Camp Garcia)Atlantic Fleet Training Center

why is most of the eastern portion of vieques still unavailable for human use
Why is most of the Eastern portion of Vieques still unavailable for human use?
  • Many munitions and explosives are still found throughout the eastern portion of the island. Roads to these areas are blocked to prevent public access.
  • In April 2005, cleanup of 50-70 acres of beach land in the eastern part of the island was conducted.
  • In June 2005, the removal of munitions and explosives began in what was the former Live Impact Area of the Vieques Naval Training Range.
decontamination and clean up efforts
Decontamination and Clean up efforts

In 2005, the Navy conducted a Preliminary Range Assessment and Phase I Expanded Range Assessment.

  • To gather data on the quantity and types of munitions left behind by military training activities.
  • To identify high-risk sites that may require time-critical removal actions for munitions because of safety.

The Time Critical Removal Action began in April 2005. By the end of April 2005, all of the east Vieques beaches (about 50 to 70 acres) were investigated and 62 munitions items (also called unexploded ordnance or UXO) had been identified and removed from the surface of the beaches.

In cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Puerto Rico’s Environmental Quality Board, the United States Navy has subcontracted CH2M HILL and PIKA International to locate and remove munitions from former Navy lands.

The people searching for unexploded ordinance remove them by BIP (blow in place). According to Fish & Wildlife officials, this is necessary because the ammunition located in the Wildlife Refuge is too large to be detonated in any existing controlled detonation chamber and by law most UXO cannot be moved by employees of the contractors.

public access today on usfws lands
Public access today on USFWS lands
  • Unlike the land under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service, which is a multi-use agency, Fish & Wildlife land is designated for activities that are wildlife dependent. For example you will not find recreation development, or resource extraction such as drilling for oil. Within the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, areas deemed safe for human activity are open year round from 6am to 6pm.
  • Recreational activities for the public to enjoy on the refuge land are wildlife observation, photography, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, jogging, biking, beach use, rock climbing and surfing.
  • Future facilities have been proposed for the western part of the refuge such as observation towers, restrooms, showers, a visitor center, trails, and boat ramps have been proposed for development in the refuge, but there is no time table for the construction of these facilities.

Created by:

Ted Lee

David Wasserman

Jesse Luberoff

Geography 190 – From De-militarization to the Re-development of Vieques

Prof. S. Davis

Special thanks to the people of Vieques, and more specifically those who took the time to talk and work with us.

For more information: (US Fish & Wildlife Service) (US Environmental Protection Agency) (US NAVY explanation of clean-up) (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

Email: (John Lindsay-Poland) Coordinator, Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean