06:57 PM

Politics Force Interior Secretary to Take Second Look at Alaska’s Latest “Golden Gravel Road” Through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge


Washington, D.C. (March 21, 2013) — Details emerged today of a deal between the Obama administration and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) whereby Interior Secretary Salazar agreed to delay a decision on whether or not to allow a multi-million dollar road to be built through the heart of Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in exchange for Senator Murkowski’s yea vote on the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the next Secretary of the Interior. The deal is an attempt to sideswipe an exhaustive scientific and public process that had previously unequivocally concluded that the road was unnecessary, not in the public’s best interests, and harmful to the refuge’s public lands and wildlife habitat.

Below is a statement from Defenders of Wildlife president Jamie Rappaport Clark.

“I am troubled and dismayed that the Obama administration is playing politics with this issue. They are ignoring their own Fish and Wildlife Service which already made a scientifically and legally sound assessment that a road through federally designated wilderness within Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would destroy wetlands of international importance to migratory waterfowl and other important wildlife species.

“The village of King Cove, the main proponent of this road, already got $37.5 million in taxpayer money in 1998 — $47,000 per resident of this small 792-person town — to address the exact same issues they are asking taxpayers to foot the bill for again. At a time when every federal agency and American is feeling the pain of budget cuts, can Senator Murkowski really look Americans in the eye and say that this is something they should pony up for?

“I just hope that Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell lives up to her promise to let science drive decisions like this. Because when it comes to building a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, the science is clear: Alaska’s ‘Golden Gravel Road’ is an environmental disaster and fiscal boondoggle the American people can live without.”

Contact: William Lutz 202-772-0269

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.