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Proposed US Helipads pose threat to nature

Date Posted: 1999-05-01

A study conducted by researchers has found sites earmarked for U.S. helipads contain endangered plants and animals indigenous to Okinawa, and are urging the government to reconsider construction plans. Researchers said the discovery of Pryer's woodpeckers, designated a national treasure, the Okinawa rail, and Yanbarutenagakogane gold bugs found in the area are on the verge of extinction. The proposed sites are located in forests in the Yanbaru district, northern Okinawa, where the US Marine Corps Northern Training Facility is situated. About 4,000 hectares of land are to be returned to Okinawa as part of the 1996 Special Action Committee of Okinawa agreement. To facilitate the return, the government was required to relocate seven helipads situated on the facility.

However, researchers found all the proposed sites were home to rare and endangered species of both animal and plant life. "It is the only region besides forests on Iriomote Island where we could find such a diversity of animals and plants," the Asahi Shimbun quoted Professor Osamu Iwahashi of the University of the Ryukyus as saying.

Another major concern is the construction of access roads, believed to be six kilometers long and 3.6 meters wide, which researchers say will lead to soil erosion and a loss of habitats for many of the area's indigenous species. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Iwahashi has urged the Defense Facilities Administration Agency to review the relocation plan.

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