No Road to Biological Ruin in Izembek Wildlife Refuge

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WASHINGTON (December 23, 2013) – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell blocked a proposed road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge today. Earlier this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) determined that the road would have caused severe damage to the refuge’s sensitive lands and wildlife. After many months of deliberation, Secretary Jewell upheld the Service’s determination, reaffirming the vital importance of protecting designated wilderness lands in a world class national wildlife refuge.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President, Defenders of Wildlife:

“Secretary Jewell made the correct call in rejecting a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. A road would have severely damaged Izembek refuge’s internationally recognized wetlands and irreplaceable wilderness that the American people agreed to permanently protect long ago. Such a construction project would have set a devastating precedent for the future wellbeing of all of our country’s wildlife refuges and designated wilderness.

“Secretary Jewell stood up to unrelenting political pressure. She based her decision on sound science and the laws that protect wildlife refuges. In upholding the Service’s decision, Secretary Jewell has affirmed her role as the nation’s chief wildlife steward and ensured protection for this irreplaceable resource for generations to come. ”

 

Background:

As part of the Senate confirmation process for the new Secretary of the Interior, Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, extracted a promise from the Obama administration that Secretary Jewell would visit the state before making a final decision about a proposed road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a diverse array of wildlife species and migratory birds, including five species of salmon, wolves, foxes, wolverines, caribou, moose, brown bears, shorebirds and seabirds. Congress previously had resolved the issue of the proposed road through Izembek back in 1998. In lieu of a road, the small community of King Cove accepted $37.5 million of federal funds for improved local health facilities and easier access to additional medical care. Despite the agreement and the tens of millions of dollars the federal tax payer paid to live up to its end of the bargain, the community of King Cove continued to press for a road through internationally important wetlands in the refuge. The largest Alaska Native organization, the Association of Village Council Presidents, opposed the proposed road, which is more likely to function as an industrial fish-hauling road in summer than an emergency evacuation route in winter. A former Alaskan health director claimed the road would be a “death trap,” in winter, so dangerous more people would die using it than would benefit from it.

 

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Contact: Cindy Hoffman, 202-772-3255, choffman@defenders.org

 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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