Conservation groups support decision against road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Apr 14, 2016

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Kristina Sowl, USFWS
Statement from AUDUBON ALASKA • DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE FRIENDS OF ALASKA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES • NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE ASSOCIATION • THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

In response to today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, the following statements are issued by organizations that support the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to protect wilderness in Izembek:

“Izembek is an irreplaceable, globally important area for many hundreds of thousands of migratory birds,” said Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska. “In some years, virtually all of the world's Pacific Brant and Emperor Geese stop at Izembek to feed and rest. Geese, particularly Brant, are important for a subsistence way of life for residents of more than 40 traditional villages across the Yukon and Kuskokwim River Delta in western Alaska, a region the size of Oregon.”

“The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Eisenhower, obtained wilderness designation under President Carter and was named America’s first RAMSAR site by President Reagan’s Interior Secretary, James Watt,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Its ecological significance has been bi-partisanly recognized and must be upheld today.  Any attempt to de-designate wilderness and build a road through it’s heart is irresponsible when other transportation alternatives exist."

“Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is an international treasure that provides essential habitat for rare and iconic wildlife,” said President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Cutting a road through the heart of Izembek would cause irreparable damage to a globally important conservation area and set a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the integrity of our National Wildlife Refuge System and wildlands across the country.”

“We strongly support the efforts of the Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary Jewell to find a reasonable and practical alternative to solve the medical evacuation problems of King Cove,” said Dr. David Raskin, president of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. “It makes no sense to construct a costly and impractical road to severely damage the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge and threaten the integrity of the entire wilderness system. Alternatives developed by the Corps of Engineers offer faster, safer, and more reliable options for medical evacuation, simultaneously developing infrastructure that would enhance the economies and meet the social needs of King Cove, Cold Bay, and other communities in the region.”

“After years of debate and exhaustive study, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists have repeatedly determined that a road through Izembek’s wetlands and wilderness is not appropriate,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society. “The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is among the crown jewels of America’s Refuge and Wilderness Systems. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has clearly shown that there are viable and dependable alternatives to a proposed road.”

Contacts:

Beth Peluso, Audubon Alaska, 907-276-7034, bpeluso@audubon.org

Catalina Tresky, Defenders of Wildlife, (202)772-0253, ctresky@defenders.org

David Raskin, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, 907-299-2420, davidc.raskin@me.com

Desiree Sorenson-Groves, National Wildlife Refuge Association, 202-290-5593, dgroves@refugeassociation.org

Tim Woody, The Wilderness Society, 907-223-2443, tim_woody@tws.org