U.S. House passes bill threatening wilderness across America

Jul 20, 2017

By passing H.R. 218 today, the U.S. House of Representatives set a dangerous precedent, approving construction of a destructive, unnecessary road through protected wilderness in the vital Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaska Peninsula.  

This bill undermines bedrock conservation laws including the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prevents road building in designated wilderness, and the National Environmental Policy Act, which guarantees a process for environmental review of federal decisions, including participation by citizens and other stakeholders. 

In response, The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from President Jamie Williams:

"This vote is an egregious assault on America’s public lands, and it poses a major threat to wildlife refuges and wilderness areas nationwide. If Congress allows a road to be built through the Izembek Wilderness, it would set a chilling precedent for stripping lands of conservation protection. None of our public lands would be safe.

“The bill is part of a far larger effort to turn over America’s shared public lands to states and private interests where they will be leased or sold off to the highest bidder.

“The U.S. Department of the Interior has exhaustively studied this proposal twice. The Department made science-based determinations that it should not be built and that effective alternatives exist to meet the transportation needs of the community of King Cove while maintaining the integrity of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 published a report establishing that there are multiple alternatives to a road and one of them—an ice-capable marine vessel—would be at least 99.2 percent effective for medical evacuations from the community of King Cove.

The proposed road is also opposed by:

  • Association of Village Council Presidents, representing 56 Native villages in western Alaska,
  • Citizens Against Government Waste, which profiled the road as a fiscal boondoggle,
  • Mayors of Cold Bay, doctors, emergency medical services staff and economists,
  • Former Interior officials from the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Ford and Nixon Administrations.