“The Road to Nowhere”
Proposed Road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

March, 2010: Last year Congress passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11), and authorized the construction of a multi-million dollar road the ecological heart of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska if the Secretary of the Department of Interior found it to be in the public interest. The proposed road would bisect the federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge destroying this fragile ecosystem. Under the law, lands would be offered in exchange for the corridor on which the road would be built; however, these lands are of significantly lesser conservation value.

Red Fox at Izembek

The proposed road through Izembek NWR would destroy pristine wildlife habitat, have treacherous driving conditions, and would cost the American taxpayer at least $30 million.

Red fox at Izembek NWR ©FWS

For this environmentally devastating and costly road to be constructed, Secretary Salazar must first find the road to be in the public interest through an environmental review of the project called an Environmental Impact Statement or (EIS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun the EIS process and NWRA and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges will be commenting on the proposal as appropriate.

Throughout the debate, NWRA's “Road to Nowhere” report has been critical in spotlighting the fiscal waste and environmental harm posed by the road. Armed with new information that further reinforces the need to reject the road, NWRA and the Friends of Alaska Refuges have released an updated report that urges Secretary Salazar to find the construction boondoggle “not in the public interest.”

Bolstering the report's re-release, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, and several other former Clinton Administration Interior Department officials, joined the fight against the proposed road by sending a letter urging Secretary Salazar to find the proposed road “not in the public interest.” The letter emphasizes the ecologic importance of the Refuge, stating, “no amount of exchange lands can compensate for the irreversible impacts a road would have on these globally significant wildlife habitat values. The sacrifice of habitat for bears, wolves, caribou and hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl—all remaining emperor geese, many threatened Steller's eiders, tundra swans and the entire Pacific black brant population—is incalculable.”

NWRA, the Friends of Alaska NWRs and our conservation partners have met with officials at the Department of the Interior and will be working closely to ensure the Secretary issues a determination that the road is not in the public interest. Read the letter from NWRA and 16 conservation organizations to Secretary Salazar urging him to reject the “Road To Nowhere” and NWRA's Statement of Position on final passage of "Road To Nowhere" provision.

Read the updated Izembek Report
Read former Secretary Babbit’s letter here

Up to date information from FWS on the Izembek EIS process can be found at http://izembek.fws.gov/EIS.htm

NWRA submitted scoping comments March 11, 2010:

Background on The Road to Nowhere

This Road to Nowhere is a problem Congress has already solved; further debate is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. In 1998, King Cove residents argued they lacked adequate access to medical and airport facilities. In response, Congress allocated $37.5 million for medical and airport improvements and a 98-foot hovercraft that has successfully provided rapid medical evacuations.

The road will have detrimental effects for the region’s wildlife. Its construction will be devastating for the half a million Pacific black brant, emperor geese, swans and other wildlife on the refuge, resulting in fragmentation, disturbance, and pollution.

The road would be built through a congressionally designated wilderness, where by definition, humans leave no mark. Precedent would be set, opening the door for other wilderness areas to be destroyed weather they be refuges or other public lands. Further, the National Wildlife Refuge System’s principles established in the “National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997” would be reversed.

In addition to disturbing a pristine and globally significant habitat, the road would be costly to American taxpayers and ineffective at providing reliable emergency transportation. The needs of King Cove have already been met when Congress allocated $37.5 million in 1998 to improve medical and transportation infrastructure in the community- and purchase the state-of-the-art hovercraft that has a 100% success record in providing emergency medevacs.

This road would cost American taxpayers additional millions of dollars for building and maintenance costs. King Cove has already spent $26 million on the 17.6 mile road to the hovercraft terminal but because of harsh terrain, they have only completed 10.4 miles. At this pace the total cost of a complete road through the Izembek NWR wilderness area could exceed $55 million.

Izembek in the News

The 98 foot Suna-X hovercraft can travel in wave heights up to 10 feet 6 inches and winds over 45 miles per hour, and can carry 50 passengers, an ambulance and freight. To date it has completed at least 32 medevacs, saving lives and giving it a 100% success rate.

6/16/09 Governor Sarah Palin's Letter to Secretary Ken Salazar requesting commencement of Izembek road project

4/2/09 New York Times Article: Enviro groups press Salazar to kill Alaska road project

3/20/09 Washington Post Article: Road Through Alaskan Refuge Wins Senate Backing

1/14/09 AP Article: Critics decry land bill's Alaska `Road to Nowhere'

12/8/08 Senator Feingold's Dear Colleague Letter

11 /26/08: New York Times Letter to the Editor by NWRA President, Evan Hirsche

11 /9/08 Washington Post Article: Proposed Road in Refuge Raises Fears About Drilling

9/18/08 New York Times Editorial: First a Bridge, Now a Road

9/15/08 Press Release: Gov. Sarah Palin Supports a New “Road To Nowhere;” Senate Committee Approves Treacherous Road Cutting Through Protected Alaska Wilderness

9/11/08 AP Article: Palin-backed wilderness road passes Senate panel

4/26/08 New York Times Editorial: Mr. Young Wants Another Road

4/24/08 Press Release:House Committee Abandons Common Sense in Favor of the “Road To Nowhere”

4/14/08 Updated Fact Sheet: Fact Sheet Regarding the Proposed Road Through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

7/23/07 Press Release: Alaska Senator, Congressman Introduce Bills to Build "Road to Nowhere" in Biological Heart of Wilderness Area

7/15/07 Comprehensive Report from NWRA and Friends of Alaska NWR's: The Road to Nowhere


How can you take action to save Izembek NWR today?

NWRA is working full-time on intensive grassroots, Congressional and media outreach. To underwrite these efforts and ensure victory, we need your help TODAY! Contribute to the "Stop the Road to Nowhere" Campaign!

You can make your voice heard by utilizing the Refuge Action Network (RAN), a free, fast and easy way to respond to important national wildlife refuge alerts. Using the RAN system, you can send an e-mail or fax (even if you don't own a fax machine) to your elected officials with a click or two of your mouse. Just visit refugenet.e-actionmax.com to learn more about how you can help oppose the Road to Nowhere!