"Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a land-swap agreement Monday to allow a small, remote Alaska town to construct a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a vast wilderness area that has been protected for decades.
The signing ceremony at Interior headquarters, which proceeded despite the government shutdown, marks a pivotal development in a political fight that has raged for more than 30 years. Alaskan politicians have argued the road would provide a route in poor weather for medical evacuations from King Cove to the closest regional airport, while environmentalists counter that it would fragment a pristine stretch of tundra and lagoons otherwise off-limits to motorized traffic.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) held a news conference after the event with not just Zinke and King Cove residents but the state’s governor, Bill Walker (I), Sen Dan Sullivan (R) and Rep. Don Young (R). She described the 925-person town as “a community in Southwest Alaska which, for over 30 years, has been trying to get a simple road, a simple road, to safety when it comes to air transport out of the areas.”"