Interior Works Covert Land Swap To Allow Road Through AK Wildlife Refuge

"The Interior Department is preparing to set aside a decades-old ban on development in federally protected wilderness areas by pursuing a controversial proposal to build a nearly 12-mile road through a wildlife refuge in ­Alaska.

The project in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has long been a priority for Alaska officials, who say it is a “lifesaving” link needed to connect a remote Aleutian Islands town of 925 people with the rest of the state. The proposal, which entails turning federal land over to a tribal corporation, fits neatly with the Trump administration’s broader goal of giving more control to local communities like King Cove.

Yet environmentalists, several native Alaskan tribes and other critics warn that the road could disrupt the habitats of a variety of animals, most notably migratory birds that use the refuge as a crucial stopover on their marathon journeys along the Pacific Coast of North America. And allowing the project would violate the founding principle of federal wilderness — areas that are to remain pristine, off-limits to vehicles — and would set a precedent that could endanger other refuges, opponents say."

Juliet Eilperin reports for the Washington Post October 15, 2017.

Source: Washington Post, 10/16/2017