Dear Mr. Jason P. Hyland (Charge d'Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy in Japan) and Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez (Commander, United States Forces Japan):

We write to express our concern regarding the U.S. military's continued use of the Northern Training Area (NTA) in northern Okinawa's Yanbaru forest, in light of the fact that the forest has been formally nominated for UNESCO World Natural Heritage status, along with the islands of Iriomote, Okinawa Prefecture, and Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima, both in Kagoshima Prefecture.

As you are well aware, the 27,800- hectare (68,695-acre) Yanbaru forest is the oldest subtropical rain forest on the island of Okinawa and one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity in Japan. It is home to some 5,400 species of fauna and over 1,000 species of vascular plants. Among these are 170 endangered species included on the Japanese Environment Ministry's Red List. Endemic and endangered species and Japan's "Natural Monuments," such as the Okinawa woodpecker and the Okinawa rail, are the best-known inhabitants of the forest. It is most appropriate that the Yanbaru forest is now being considered for UNESCO World Heritage status.