Decision to Protect Izembek Wilderness Appealed

The State of Alaska, the City of King Cove and Several Other Groups Challenge Decision Protecting Wilderness

Nov 12, 2015
Lisa Oakley

The Alaska District Court upheld the Secretary of the Interior’s decision to reject building a road through Wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in early September. Now the State of Alaska, the city of King Cove, and several others are appealing that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Nearly the entire world’s population of black brandt use Izembek National Wildlife Refuge as an important migration stop. USFWS photo.

At the core of the issue is removing lands from designated Wilderness and the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which is internationally important habitat for millions of migratory birds. Such a decision would be the first time Wilderness was de-designated to build a road.

Some local interests claim the road is needed to provide more reliable access to medical care in Anchorage. But this issue is not really a choice between safe medical access and protecting Wilderness. Viable solutions exist that would meet the transportation and medical needs of King Cove, including a hovercraft capable of transporting an ambulance across the bay to the town of Cold Bay in as little as 20 minutes or similar ride across the bay in a landing craft, as King Cove most recently proposed. Making these solutions happen is an economic issue, not an environmental issue.

And that gets to the legal issue before the Ninth Circuit: Did the Department of the Interior follow the required procedures and take all of the environmental and economic impacts into account when deciding to keep Izembek’s designated Wilderness wild? The District Court answered that question correctly in the affirmative, and we will continue to advocate for that result before the Ninth Circuit.

Trustees for Alaska represents eight conservation groups to protect the Izembek Refuge from the proposed road and land swap.

Read more about the Izembek case.

Clients: Audubon Alaska, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Wilderness Watch

 

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