The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge needs your voice! The Department of the Interior is currently in the process of once again potentially allowing a road to be built through the heart of this internationally-renowned wilderness. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is accepting public comments from individuals and organizations on this process no later than June 20, 2023.
Earlier this year, Secretary Haaland rescinded a 2019 proposed land exchange that would have allowed a road to be constructed in the Izembek NWR because the process that authorized the exchange was flawed and not consistent with Departmental policy. The proposed road would connect the village of King Cove with an all-weather airstrip in Cold Bay with the intent to provide an option for emergency medical evacuations for King Cove residents. Now, the Department has renewed the process to review proposals for a land exchange that would allow a road, using the same unlawful pretense as the previous administration.
The law that established the Izembek NWR and over 100 million acres of conservation lands in Alaska, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), allows for land exchanges only if the purpose is to benefit the conservation or subsistence values of the area. ANILCA does not allow for land exchanges to build roads, and it does not provide the authority to the Secretary to authorize a land exchange for this purpose. In this renewed effort to authorize a road, the Biden Administration perpetuates the suggestion that the Secretary of the Interior has the authority to trade away congressionally designated wilderness to private parties to allow roads or other development projects. Such authority would implicate all of Alaska’s conservation lands, setting a precedent that other wilderness areas can be subjected to similar trades to allow development projects.
Previous proposals to construct a road through the ecological heart of this unique national wildlife refuge have so far been unsuccessful due to the significant and irreversible damage it would make to one of the world’s most critical wetlands and waterfowl habitats. This road would have devastating impacts on more than half a million Pacific brant, emperor geese, swans, and other wildlife, resulting in habitat fragmentation, disturbance, and pollution. These impacts on wildlife would also inevitably impact subsistence hunting and harvesting for Indigenous communities that rely on these resources.
These critically important wetlands must be protected for future generations. Izembek NWR is one of America’s most ecologically significant national wildlife refuges and must be safeguarded from these continued threats. Please join us in urging the USFWS and Secretary Haaland to choose a non-road alternative rather than execute a land exchange for a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
Public comments are due June 20th, 2023. If you would like to submit a custom comment, you can submit it here.
Thank you for your continued support in protecting our planet’s precious wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge System.