The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is one of the most diverse natural lands in America. Millions of migratory birds, plus caribou, bears, and salmon call Izembek home. Now many of those animals may be threatened as the result of a land swap deal arranged by the Trump administration with Alaska’s King Cove Corporation.
Conservation groups have decided to do something about it, and they’ve filed suit against the Trump administration.
The land trade involves giving up to 500 acres of the Izembek refuge to King Cove for the construction of a road. The Trustees for Alaska is the nonprofit law firm representing the conservation groups.
The lawsuit is based on the belief that the construction of the road would do irreversible damage to feeding grounds for millions of animals, including birds that migrate from three separate continents. Specifically, the lawsuit charges that the land exchange fails to protect a vital wildlife area, which is a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Acts.
This isn’t the first time that a road through the Izembek Wildlife Refuge has been proposed. Previous administrations, in conjunction with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have been presented with the road proposal on several occasions in the past, and on each event, all departments concluded that the road would do significant damage to the area’s fish and wildlife habitats. It was also determined on those occasions that the construction served no public interest.
The proposed reason for the road construction is that it will help with medical transport. However, taking a boat or plane from King Cove to Cold Bay for medical reasons is far quicker than driving across the Izembek Refuge. On top of that, the severe weather that pounds the area in the winter would make a road impassable anyway. The Army Corps of Engineers was called upon for an assessment, and they determined that ferryboat is the most reliable form of transportation between King Cove and Cold Bay, stating that the ferries would be reliable at least 99% of the time.
The Alaska Izembek National Wildlife Refuge land swap issue is just one in an ever-growing list of public land issues. Hopefully, the current administration will learn to appreciate the beauty of pristine public lands and waterways instead of the potential dollars and cents that oil and gas drilling provides.