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DOI to Allow Road Construction Inside National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska

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Red fox at Kinzarof Lagoon, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Kristine Sowl, USFWS / Flickr

The Interior Department has reached a deal with a remote Alaskan village to construct a controversial road through a national wildlife refuge.

Local officials from King Cove in the Aleutian Islands said last week that the Interior Department has approved a land swap that would allow the village to build a 12-mile gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge that will connect the village to the nearby town of Cold Bay.


The proposed road, which would cut through key habitat for grizzly bear, caribou and other species, has been a political flash point for decades. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's move to allow the road will overturn a 2013 decision by then-Interior Sec. Sally Jewell to block the road's construction.

As reported by the Washington Post:

"Randi Spivak, who directs the public lands program for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an email that the advocacy group was prepared to challenge the agreement in federal court if it is finalized. The proposed project, she argued, would probably run afoul of the Wilderness Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

'Bulldozing a road through the heart of the refuge violates federal laws designed to protect Alaska's pristine wild places,' Spivak said. 'Zinke's backroom deal is an end run around Congress and will destroy world-class wetlands critical to millions of migrating birds, bears and other wildlife. Once it's destroyed, we'll never get it back.'"

In a press release, Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark said, "We will not stand by while some of the world's most vital wildlife habitat is ripped from public ownership to satisfy commercial interests. We will challenge this illegal scam in federal court."

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post, New York Times, KTOO, KUCB, KTUU

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