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Department of Interior Facilitating Secret Public Land Give Away for Commercial Interests

Putting Profits Over Public Lands Protections, Secretary Zinke Secretly Moving Devastating Road Proposal Forward at Izembek NWR

 October 16, 2017 (Washington, DC) – The Department of the Interior is secretly moving to give away hundreds of acres of designated wilderness in the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to allow the construction of a road, according to a story by the Washington Post.

“By hiding this public land give away behind closed doors at the Department of the Interior, the leadership there clearly knows what they propose is wrong,” said Geoffrey Haskett, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “This shady land deal is about economic development for a selected few and a fair and open debate should be had for all Americans to hear, and weigh in.”Friends of Alaska NWRs logo

For decades, officials in King Cove, Alaska, have been pushing to build a gravel road across the narrow strip of land that separates their 989 residents from Cold Bay, where they say it is the only way for residents to safely reach Cold Bay’s all-weather airport during emergency medical evacuations. They’ll tell you that a road is needed…to save lives. But a paper trail dating back more than 30 years suggests that the real motivation behind the road has always been…to haul fish.

“This blatant public land give away will do nothing but line the pockets of corporate interests,” said Dr. David Raskin, President of the Friends of Alaska Refuges. “Secretary Zinke says he wants to be a Theodore Roosevelt Republican, but President Roosevelt fought big business, he didn’t cater to it.”

In 1994, the City of King Cove passed a resolution stating that such a road would link North America’s largest salmon cannery in King Cove with one of Alaska’s premier airports at Cold Bay.

A year later, when speaking about the release of a state transportation plan, then Governor Tony Knowles said he favored “a 20-mile road between King Cove and Cold Bay on the Alaska Peninsula for transporting salmon to a community with a runway that could handle large planes.”

In 2011, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “The decades-old push to get the road built between King Cove and the Cold Bay Airport so that we can have greater access for transportation is going to be a critical ingredient in that thriving economic future going out for the next 100 years.”

Even Alaska Governor Bill Walker, stated in a letter to President Trump that a road would allow access to health services and movement of goods and people between King Cove and Cold Bay.

A land exchange and road has been studied exhaustively with the same conclusion – a road would do irreparable harm to one of the most globally significant wetlands on earth. The Trump Administration’s sneaky attempt to push through this land give away without public input threatens not only the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System, but the Wilderness Preservation System and indeed, all public lands in our great nation.

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The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge Association is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries that secure its ecological integrity. For more information, visit www.refugeassociation.org or contact Desiree Sorenson-Groves.

 The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges educate the public and decision makers on local, national, and international levels about Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges; assist the refuges in accomplishing their missions through wildlife management and habitat improvement projects; and fund refuge-oriented projects through grants, memberships, donations, and other activities. For more information, visit www.alaskarefugefriends.org or contact Dr. David Raskin.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2017/10/department-of-interior-facilitating-secret-public-land-give-away-for-commercial-interests/

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