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Saturday, February 17, 2001

Family sues feds
for making Kingman
Reef a refuge

By Debra Barayuga

The Fullard-Leo family of Hawaii is challenging the designation of Kingman Reef -- an atoll that sits halfway between the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa -- as a National Wildlife Refuge.

The family, which claims ownership and title to the atoll from 1992 through November 2000 when it transferred title to its limited liability company, contends the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service acquired Kingman Reef illegally.

A lawsuit filed yesterday against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service contends the agency disregarded private ownership and other property rights to Kingman Reef and pushed through the designation before President Bill Clinton left office.

The suit said the agency violated federal environmental laws by, among other things, failing to consider alternatives, conduct an environmental impact statement, conduct a formal contamination survey and address new information developed since the draft environmental assessment was prepared.

Also named as a defendant in the suit was the U.S. Department of Interior.

On Dec. 11, 2000, the public was given a 30-day period to comment after a draft environmental assessment and draft conceptual management plan to designate the atoll as a wildlife refuge.

The U.S. Navy, General Accounting Office, U.S. Coast Guard and Fish & Wildlife Service all have acknowledged that Kingman Reef is privately owned.

Despite opposition from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Defense, Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish & Wildlife Service ruled that designation would have no significant impact on the quality of human life and therefore a more extensive environmental impact statement was not required.

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