Press Room

Conservation Groups Praise Action to Protect Alaska Wilderness

After months of review, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today reaffirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s earlier decision to forbid the construction of a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Conservation groups applauded the decision and the leadership of Secretary Jewell.

After three years of study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded earlier this year that the road would not be in the public’s best interests, and would have harmed the refuge lands and wildlife. Secretary Jewell spent the past several months reconsidering that decision.

In 1998, taxpayers provided $37.5 million for an efficient transportation solution between the remote communities of King Cove and Cold Bay that includes a state-of-the-art hovercraft, a road to the hovercraft terminal, and upgrades to the telemedicine center.

Much of the refuge is designated wilderness and home to a diverse array of wildlife species and migratory birds, including five species of salmon, harbor seals, sea otters and Steller’s sea lions; wolves, caribou, brown bears and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and seabirds. 

The birds, including threatened and endangered species, and numerous mammals and fish depend on the wetlands, tundra, streams, and tidal areas to reproduce and feed.   





“Izembek is an irreplaceable, globally important area for many hundreds of thousands of migratory birds,” said Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska. “In some years, virtually all of the world's Pacific Black Brant use Izembek, including birds from Alaska, Russia, and Canada. Science shows this is a globally significant resource. We support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s sound decision to keep the refuge intact.”

“We appreciate Secretary Jewell’s leadership to protect the heart of the Izembek Refuge,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director, Alaska Wilderness League. “We declare this a victory for wilderness and for the American taxpayer. The wilderness values of this unique refuge are truly irreplaceable. It provides vital habitat to Steller’s sea lions, brown bear, tundra swans, and a quarter of a million migratory birds that use the refuge each fall.”

Ron Fowler, president of the Blue Goose Alliance, said, “The Blue Goose Alliance would like to commend Secretary Jewell for her courageous decision defending the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge from a land exchange and road that would have caused irreversible damage to the refuge.”

“We applaud Secretary Jewell’s strong stand to protect Izembek’s wilderness and its unmatched wildlife habitat from the damaging impacts of the proposed road,” said conservation biologist Kiersten Lippmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Clearly, building a road through this remote and ecologically critical area was not in the public interest.”

"The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges applauds the decision by Secretary Jewell to endorse the extensively studied and documented conclusion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that rejected the proposed road through the biological heart of the Izembek Wilderness,” said David Raskin, past president and advocacy chair for Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. “Her action forcefully recognizes that Izembek is a critical, world class habitat for iconic and endangered species that deserve protection from this unnecessary, damaging, and extremely costly proposal. This is a resounding victory for Wilderness and all who enjoy and love our National Wildlife Refuges." 

"We thank Secretary Jewell for her leadership in protecting the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge," said Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters. "A thorough study by the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that Secretary Jewell's decision to leave the refuge intact is the right thing to do for the diverse array of wildlife species that depend on this irreplaceable wilderness area."

"Secretary Jewell has followed sound science and determined the proposed road would be harmful to the Alaska's Izembek Refuge and to wildlife. More than 15 years ago, Congress provided $37.5 million to the communities near the refuge for a transportation alternative which includes a hovercraft and medical clinic improvements." said Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Vice President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. "We applaud her leadership and support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's exhaustive scientific study and for protecting this spectacular refuge and wilderness area."

“We’re pleased Secretary Jewell held up a stop sign on a bad idea,” said Chuck Clusen, Alaska Project Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As with other refuges, the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge provides a critical habitat for migratory birds. Punching a road through the Izembak’s heart could derail breeding of the Pacific black Brant and other important species that rely on undeveloped wild lands for their continued survival.”

"We applaud Secretary Jewell for following the science and the findings of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in deciding to protect the incredible natural values of the refuge. Her decision is the right one for American taxpayers, for Native communities that rely on the refuge for their livelihood, and for wildlife of the refuge," said Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club Alaska Program Director

“We appreciate Secretary Jewell’s thorough study of this issue, and applaud her for visiting the region and making a scientifically sound decision to protect this extraordinarily important wilderness habitat,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director of The Wilderness Society. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the right decision months ago, and the secretary’s decision to uphold that ruling is a victory for the wildlife refuge, the communities that depend on it for subsistence activities and for designated wilderness nationwide.”

George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, said, “Wilderness Watch supports Secretary Jewell's decision to say no to a road through the Izembek Refuge Wilderness, thus avoiding a dangerous precedent for the entire National Wilderness Preservation System."

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”