Former Interior chief joins fight against refuge road

Opponents of a proposed road through Alaska's Izembek Wildlife Refuge have enlisted the help of an environmental heavyweight: former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

Babbitt, who served as the Interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, has signed a letter asking the current occupant of the office, Ken Salazar, to find that a road through the refuge is not in the public interest.

If Salazar agrees to the road, it would the first-ever road authorized in a wilderness area in the 45-year history of the Wilderness Act, Babbitt warned, setting a "dangerous precedent."

The road could "jeopardize all the wilderness lands that we and so many others have worked tirelessly to set aside for future generations: every national park, refuge and wilderness area that the Department is pledged to protect," Babbitt wrote to Salazar.

..."They need to take a comprehensive look at this area," said Maribeth Oakes of the Wilderness Society's refuge program. That includes focusing on potential oil and gas development in Bristol Bay and what it means for the refuge, Oakes said...