SAN FRANCISO — The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) followed appropriate laws protecting endangered species during the planned relocation of a military base in Japan, a federal judge ruled on Aug. 1.
Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found in favor of the DOD over accusations that relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenman will have an adverse effect on the native Okinawa dugong, distant relatives of the manatee.
According to court documents, several Japanese environmental groups joined with the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity to file a lawsuit in 2003 over the relocation of the base, referred to as the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF), from Ginawan City to Okinawa. The groups argued the relocation violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
Judge Marilyn Patel, then assigned to the case, agreed the DOD neglected to perform an adequate review process when developing the relocation proposal. In 2012, DOD completed a new review process later and the lawsuit began anew.
The native Okinawa dugong is a distant relatives of the manatee.
In his decision, Chen noted the NHPA only gives a "limited scope of judicial review" and found the government followed the appropriate procedures.
“The court is aware of the high stakes at issue," Chen wrote in the opinion. "The court understands the concern of plaintiffs and those of affected citizens about the potential harm to the endangered dugongs of Okinawa."