Conservationists encourage transportation solutions for King Cove

Dec 23, 2014

Virtually all of the world's Pacific black brant rest and feed at the Izembek refuge during spring and fall migrations.

Kristine Sowl, USFWS

One year after Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to forbid the construction of a road through federally designated wilderness in Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, members of the conservation community are encouraging an effort to find a permanent alternative solution to meet the transportation needs of King Cove.

“Last year, after extensive study that included a trip to King Cove, Secretary Jewell made a sound decision based on science and the facts in this case,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society. “We encourage the community of King Cove to work with the state and federal governments to find a solution that meets their needs while protecting Izembek’s congressionally designated wilderness.

“A new road would present a massive fiscal burden for the state of Alaska at a time when it is eliminating spending on unaffordable mega-projects such as the Knik Arm Bridge, the Ambler Road, and the Susitna-Watana Dam.  This is not a ‘free’ road,” Whittington-Evans added.  “It would require tens of millions in additional transportation dollars that the state does not have at this time.”

Virtually all of the world's emperor geese and Pacific black brant rest and feed at the Izembek refuge during spring and fall migrations. The proposed road would have had significant negative effects on sensitive bird populations, brown bears, caribou and many other species, as well as Alaska Native communities that subsist on wildlife resources that depend on the refuge’s unique habitat.

After exhaustive study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that construction of a road between the Alaska communities of King Cove and Cold Bay would not be in the public interest. The government acknowledged that the road would damage the heart of a globally significant wilderness and wildlife habitat, as well as subsistence resources. Nevertheless, proponents of the road pressured Jewell to overturn the government's carefully researched decision, and they have continued to demand the road’s construction.

“We respect local residents’ needs,” Whittington-Evans said, “and it is time to find an alternative that works. The government did a thorough analysis before settling the road issue. As we move into a new year, we hope that all parties will commit to working on a solution.”