New Draft Environmental Review Confirms Proposed Road is a Bad Idea
Washington DC – The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges call upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reject the proposed “Road to Nowhere” through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and choose a ‘no action’ alternative. Although the FWS did not select a preferred alternative in their draft environmental review of several transportation options, NWRA and the Friends call upon sound science to guide the final decision.
“The draft reconfirms our long-held position that the proposed road is a boondoggle that pretends to solve a problem already solved with $37.5 million of taxpayers funds from Congress,” said David Raskin, Board member of the Friends of Alaska NWRs. “The proposed road sets a dangerous precedent to remove lands from the National Wilderness Preservation System and has the potential to devastate animals that live in the refuge and millions of migratory birds that rely on its vital food resources during their annual migrations of thousands of miles to the lower 48 states and beyond.”
The proposed road through Izembek NWR would connect two isolated Alaskan villages at the expense of a biologically sensitive area protected under the Wilderness Act – the world’s highest level of conservation protection. In 1998 Congress provided $37.5 million to the community of King Cove (pop. 800) to address their transportation and safety issues, which included the purchase of a state-of-the-art hovercraft to connect their community to the village of Cold Bay (pop. 75).
“This road is a bad deal for wildlife and taxpayers,” said NWRA Vice-President of Government Affairs Desiree Sorenson-Groves. “The American taxpayer has already paid $37.5 million to a community of 800 people to address health, safety and transportation needs – how much is enough?”
Despite the hovercraft’s success and the community’s needs being met, road supporters successfully lobbied Congress to include the road proposal as part of a 2009 Public Lands bill. This bill stipulated that the Secretary of the Interior would have to approve or reject the road project upon the completion of a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Izembek NWR is located on a remote and sparsely populated stretch of Aleutian Peninsula in Alaska. This world-class habitat is a vital stopover point for migratory birds–including endangered Steller’s eiders and 98 percent of the Pacific brant population, a small goose that migrates from Alaska to Mexico. It is also home to brown bears, fox and caribou.
The draft document will be open to public comment until May 18, 2012. The final EIS will be released in the fall of 2012. A Record of Decision and a Public Interest Finding by the Secretary of the Interior will be completed no earlier than 30 days after release of the final EIS.
For more information about the Izembek NWR “Road to Nowhere” visit: http://refugeassociation.org/advocacy/refuge-issues/izembek/