The endangered dugong, a type of “sea cow” similar to Florida’s manatee, threatens to put the brakes on a huge military construction project in Japan.
A federal court in San Francisco ruled that Navy plans to build a new base in Okinawa would violate the National Historic Preservation Act by threatening dugong habitat.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that protecting the dugong could cut into related construction and service jobs, exacting a steep economic toll on economically depressed northern Okinawa.
U.S. military facilities in Okinawa have a long and controversial history, with resentment lingering over the rape of a schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995.
Plans for the new base were approved in the late 1990s, following Tokyo’s commitment of more than $900 million in tax breaks and stimulus programs for Okinawa.
Critics told the Monitor that the Japanese government shouldn’t link “economic assistance” to Okinawan support for the Navy plan.
“Ruling to protect dugong could put Northern Okinawa aid at risk”
Christian Science Monitor, February 5, 2008