June 6, 2023 | By:

Save the Izembek Wilderness—yet again—from road scheme!

Save the Izembek Wilderness - BannerSpeak up for Izembek by June 20!

It’s become almost a monthly ritual, but we need you to speak up for the Izembek Wilderness again!

The Izembek Wilderness, its hundreds of species of wildlife, and all federal conservation lands in Alaska are in danger once again as the Biden administration moves forward with a potential land exchange that would allow a road to cut through this remote and irreplaceable Wilderness. You may recall that Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland recently withdrew a Trump-era land exchange agreement with local governments. Unfortunately, Haaland is now considering a new land exchange using the same unlawful pretense as former Interior Secretary Bernhardt during the Trump administration. The proposed road would connect the village of King Cove and its large fish cannery with an all-weather airstrip in Cold Bay. It would also ostensibly serve to provide emergency medical evacuations for King Cove residents.

A road cutting through the heart of the internationally-renowned Izembek Wilderness and National Wildlife Refuge would be catastrophic for the critters that live there, but if the Biden administration succeeds in its quest it will set a terrible precedent for more than 100 million acres of conservation areas in Alaska. Please urge Sec. Haaland to drop the land exchange proposal and instead consider other more feasible ways to provide emergency medical care for village residents.

The law that established the Izembek Wilderness 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 conservation or subsistence values of the area. ANILCA does not allow for land exchanges to build roads. Sec. Haaland is attempting to circumvent this requirement by first completing the land exchange and then claiming the exchanged land is no longer federal so a road can be built. This unlawful process puts all conservation lands in Alaska at risk and must be stopped.

Not only is the land exchange unlawful, but a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers analysis shows that non-road alternatives for transportation between King Cove and Cold Bay are more reliable, less expensive, and won’t harm Izembek. A 2015 analysis looked at three non-road alternatives: a marine option—a 150-foot year-round ferry capable of moving through 12-inch-thick ice, a fixed-wing aircraft and new airport, and a helicopter/heliport. The analysis concluded that the marine (ferry) option would be the most reliable, with more than 99 percent dependability, while not being cost-prohibitive compared to building and maintaining a road. Upgrading existing medical facilities in King Cove is another more viable option for dealing with emergency situations.

This hub of natural diversity—home to wildlife such as brown bears, caribou, sea otters, and Stellar sea lions, and a migratory stopover for hundreds of thousands of birds—is protected in large part because of its seclusion and lack of surrounding development. A road would cause a cascade of problems, including a massive amount of illegal and damaging off-road vehicle (ORV) trespass throughout the Wilderness. We only have to look at the harm ORV trespass is already doing from a new spur road built to the edge of Izembek, to see that a road through Izembek would give ORVs unlimited opportunities to enter and harm the Izembek Wilderness.

Please write to Sec. Haaland and urge her to choose a non-road alternative rather than execute a land exchange for a road through Izembek. Comments are due June 20.

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1 year ago

The only way we’re going to win these battles and ultimately the war for the Earth and all the life here is to be relentless for however many decades, centuries, or millennia it takes. Like a river eroding a rock over a long period of time, it doesn’t do so because it’s stronger than the rock; it does so because it’s relentless. Credit to Siddhartha for the latter.

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