Land exchange sacrifices Izembek wilderness for road development

Jan 6, 2018

A road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would "cause irreversible damage not only to

the refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it."

Credit: Kristine Sowl, USFWS

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (January 6, 2018) – Despite previous decisions by the U.S. Department of the Interior that a controversial road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is unnecessary and should not be built because it would “cause irreversible damage not only to the Refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it,” the Washington Post is reporting today that the Trump administration has reached an agreement on a land exchange with the King Cove Native Corporation to allow the road to be constructed through a designated wilderness area.

Construction of the road would set a dangerous precedent endangering refuges and wilderness areas across the nation, and undermine multiple bedrock environmental and conservation laws including the Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

In response, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Alaska regional director Nicole Whittington-Evans:

“We respect the transportation needs of King Cove, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that viable non-road alternatives exist to meet the community’s needs while protecting the global significance of the Izembek refuge and its wildlife. This appalling move by the Trump administration is the result of a backroom deal that kept the public completely in the dark and ignores the Interior Department’s science-based conclusions against the road.

“The agreement reached is more proof that Secretary Zinke is leading the charge to sell or trade off our public lands and hand them over to development interests, no matter the sacrifice. The administration does not have the legal authority to take this action, and we will challenge them in court to ensure this irreplaceable wilderness area remains intact.”

Despite recent and sole focus on emergency transportation, the truth is that ever since discussion of the road proposal began decades ago, the purpose of the road has been for commercial and socioeconomic opportunity. King Cove passed a resolution to this effect in the 1980s; since then, many road proponents have addressed the economic benefits of a road. Most recently, Alaska’s governor indicated to President Trump in his list of transportation priorities that, among other things, the road would improve the “movement of goods and people between King Cove and Cold Bay.”

###

Contacts:
Kate Mackay, Director - Wildlands Communications; 602-571-2603; kate_mackay@tws.org (Tim Woody is on vacation)

Brad Brooks, Director – Public Lands Campaign, (208) 870-9043; brad_brooks@tws.org