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2018 Review: Friends Advocacy Initiatives

In 2018, we were confronted by many important threats to our National Wildlife Refuges and Parks in Alaska and the Nation. Friends are at the forefront of efforts to prevent the Administration from permanently damaging habitat and wildlife and giving away lands in national conservation units. Below are the major actions in which we have participated along with our many conservation partners.
 
Izembek Land Trade and Road    
Secretary Zinke and his staff undertook a series of secret negotiations that resulted in a land trade with those who have pushed for an unnecessary and costly road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness. The Friends organization is the lead plaintiff along with eight other conservation organizations in the lawsuit filed in the Anchorage Federal District Court that challenges the proposed land trade and road. We are represented by Trustees for Alaska that has performed excellent legal work on behalf of the conservation organizations.   Everything has been submitted and argued, we and await a ruling by the Court on our motion for summary judgment.
 
Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain

 The criticism continues concerning the DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) for oil leasing in less than six months. The environmental assessment for the proposed seismic testing has not been issued by BLM but could occur very soon. For a summary of the potential risks and impacts from seismic activity, click on the Alaska Wilderness League fact sheet here. We expect that the potential environmental impacts of seismic exploration and lease sales will not be adequately addressed and documented, which would result in extensive litigation by national organizations and Friends challenging these proposed actions.
 
Predator Control
Friends and 14 other organizations intervened in the lawsuit by the State of Alaska and Safari Clubs International that challenged the National Park Service 2015 predator control regulations. The case was put on hold until December 10, 2018, because the Park Service was ordered by the DOI to issue revised regulations. We joined the other organizations in comments drafted by Trustees for Alaska opposing the revised regulations. We await the outcome of that process.
 
Kenai Revised Regulations
The USFWS is preparing revisions to the regulations regarding hunting and access in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This revision was ordered by DOI to accommodate the long-standing efforts of the State of Alaska to dramatically increase hunting and motorized access on the Refuge. As with the similar DOI orders to the National Park Service, their plan is to eliminate long-standing protections to habitat and wildlife on national wildlife refuges. We expect that the Department of Interior will require the Refuge to accept the demands of the State to allow baiting of brown bears and off-road vehicle access during the winter, but expanded hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area along the Skilak Loop Road may not be addressed until later. We are closely monitoring this process and working with our conservation partners to prevent or minimize these destructive regulations.
 
Hovercrafts on Navigable Waters
Together with the National Parks Conservation Association and other organizations, Friends entered an amicus brief in Sturgeon v. Masica in opposition to Sturgeon’s claim that, contrary to National Park Service regulations, he can operate his hovercraft on the navigable waters of Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. After the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals denied his claim, the case was accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet issued its decision.

Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act
Senator Sullivan’s bill to amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act represents a major threat to federal conservation units in Alaska. It would revise provisions regarding land allotments for Alaska Native Vietnam veterans. Eligibility is expanded to include all Alaska Native veterans who served between August 5, 1964, and May 7, 1975. Allotments may be selected from vacant federal lands or lands that have been selected or conveyed to the State of Alaska or an Alaska Native corporation, if the State or corporation relinquishes or conveys the land to the United States for allotment. An heir of a deceased eligible veteran, regardless of the cause of death, may apply for and receive an allotment. We are following the progress of this legislation and hope that it will not become law.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season and a New Year filled with conservation victories against the forces of darkness!
by David Raskin, Friends Board President

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2018 October Advocacy Report

Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain
The criticism continues concerning the DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) for oil leasing in less than six months. The environmental assessment for the seismic testing has not been issued. For a summary of the potential risks and impacts from seismic click on the Alaska Wilderness League fact sheet here.

Izembek Land Trade and Road
DOI is moving forward with technical administrative items to advance the land exchange, including surveying the road corridor and material sites.  Notice of the survey was in Federal Register on Sept. 12th DOJ has confirmed that BLM is going to be republishing the FR Notice because it was confusion.  This will restart the clock on the 30 day review and protest period once it is republished.

The lawsuit challenging the proposed land trade and road through the heart of the Izembek wilderness is in the hands of the Anchorage Federal District Court as Trustees for Alaska performs excellent legal work on behalf of Friends and eight other conservation organizations who filed the lawsuit against the proposed land trade and road.  We await a ruling by the court on our motion for summary judgment. There was little new in the government brief, and we remain optimistic that we will prevail against this destructive, costly, and unnecessary project.

Kenai Revised Regulations
The USFWS is preparing revisions to the regulations regarding hunting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This revision was ordered by DOI to accommodate the long-standing efforts of the State of Alaska to dramatically increase hunting and motorized access on the Refuge. As with the similar DOI orders to the National Park Service, their plan is to eliminate long-standing protections of habitat and wildlife on national wildlife refuges. We expect that the Department of Interior will that the Refuge follow the demands of the State to allow baiting of brown bears, off-road vehicle access during the winter, expanded hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area along the Skilak Loop Road. We are closely monitoring this process and working with our conservation partners to prevent or at least minimize these destructive regulations.

 

 

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September 2018 Advocacy Update

By Board President, David Raskin

Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain
The criticism continues concerning the DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) for oil leasing in less than six months. There are serious questions about the financial health, expertise, and independence of the contractor to whom BLM has granted a permit to conduct extensive seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain. Such operations would leave lasting scars on the tundra and destroy vegetation. Seismic testing also poses a risk to denning polar bears that are increasingly coming onshore in the Arctic Refuge to build their winter maternity dens. Even with the best technology, it is not possible to identify all denning sites. The vibrations from testing can and have caused female polar bears to abandon their cubs. For a summary of the potential risks and impacts from seismic click on the Alaska Wilderness League fact sheet here.
 
The Bureau of Land Management has yet to post the full seismic application, only a seven-page project proposal summary document. Seismic exploration could begin as soon as this December. The BLM claims that the impacts from seismic exploration are minimal and necessitate only a brief Environmental Assessment rather than a full Environmental Impact Statement. This rushed and potentially flawed process to assess the potential damage from seismic exploration and oil development continues to raise the specter of legal action by conservation organizations that would considerably delay the government’s frantic rush to develop oil in the Arctic Refuge.
 
Izembek Land Trade and Road
The lawsuit challenging the proposed land trade and road through the heart of the Izembek wilderness continues to work its way through the Anchorage Federal District Court as Trustees for Alaska performs excellent legal work on behalf of Friends and eight other conservation organizations who filed the lawsuit against the proposed land trade and road.  Trustees is preparing our reply to the Department of Justice reply brief that was filed August 22. There is little new in the government brief, and we remain optimistic that we will prevail against this destructive, costly, and unnecessary project.
 
Kenai Revised Regulations 
The USFWS is preparing revisions to the regulations regarding hunting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This revision was ordered by DOI to accommodate the long-standing efforts of the State of Alaska to dramatically increase hunting and motorized access on the Refuge. As with the similar DOI orders to the National Park Service, their plan is to eliminate long-standing protections of habitat and wildlife on national wildlife refuges. The State wants to authorize hunting of brown bears at bait stations, which has never been allowed on refuges, and expand hunting and access in other areas of the refuge that have been limited by extensive studies and public participation that resulted in the current regulations. We are closely monitoring this process and working with our conservation partners to prevent or at least minimize these destructive regulations.
 
Sturgeon v. Frost
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to rehear the Sturgeon lawsuit against the National Park Service that had prevented his continued operation of a hovercraft in a national park. This suit challenged the authority of the Park Service to regulate activities on navigable waters in the national parks, which has major implications for national wildlife refuges and other national conservation lands. We had joined an Amicus Brief submitted by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of 14 conservation organizations in support of the Park Service. The Sturgeon oral argument has been scheduled for Monday, November 5 in the Supreme Court.
 
There are no big changes in the government’s arguments, although there has been a change in the alignment of the amici.  The congressional delegation did not file this time, and the ANCSA corporations mostly dropped out, only Ahtna filed. We are in a strong position with the brief we had previously filed, which is being updated for resubmission.  The U.S. brief on behalf of the National Park Service will be filed on September 11.

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August 2018 Advocacy Update

August 2018 Advocacy Update
by Board President, David Raskin

Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain

There has been considerable criticism of the DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) in less than six months. We participated in a meeting of conservation organizations with the BLM staff that is implementing orders from DOI.  The scoping process has been completed and comments can be viewed online.

It appears that the independent contractor hired to prepare the Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) will rely mostly on existing data and previous analyses, most of which are either incomplete or out of date. BLM was not forthcoming in response to our questions about the process and timing of actions. The Yukon government is launching its own study of drilling impacts in Alaska’s Arctic refuge. The Canadian territory is particularly concerned with potential impacts to the caribou herds who calve on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain and the Gwich’in people who depend on them for subsistence

In the meantime, BLM has accepted a permit to conduct extensive seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain. The BLM is working on an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the proposed activities, but they provided little information about the timing of its completion, if and when a public comment period will occur, and when a decision will be made on the need for a full environmental analysis. The potential damage from such activities is great, and lasting damage from previous seismic activities is described in this article:

This rushed and potentially flawed process to assess the potential damage from seismic exploration and oil development has raised widespread concerns that legal action by conservation organizations would cause considerable delays in government plans to develop oil in the Arctic Refuge.

Izembek Land Trade and Road

Under orders from DOI, the Fish and Wildlife Service granted a permit for survey work to delineate the boundaries of the lands in the Refuge that would be conveyed to build the road through the Izembek Wilderness. This legally-questionable survey that was hurriedly completed in July impacted wildlife and habitat with 80 helicopter landings and installation of 122 survey monuments. This intensive work with motorized equipment and aircraft was conducted within congressionally-designated wilderness in preparation for trading away vital public lands to a private entity to build the controversial road through the heart of the Izembek Wilderness.

The lawsuit challenging the proposed land trade and road through the heart of the Izembek wilderness is working its way through the Anchorage Federal District Court as Trustees for Alaska continues its excellent legal work on behalf of Friends and eight other conservation organizations who filed the lawsuit against the proposed land trade and road.  Our legal brief was filed, and the Department of Justice reply brief is due on August 22. We remain optimistic that we will prevail against this destructive, costly, and unnecessary project.

Sturgeon v. Frost

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to rehear the Sturgeon lawsuit against the National Park Service that had prevented his continued operation of a hovercraft in a national park. This suit challenged the authority of the Park Service to regulate activities on navigable waters in the national parks, which has major implications for national wildlife refuges and other national conservation lands. We had previously joined an Amicus Brief submitted by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of 14 conservation organizations in support of the Park Service. We reaffirmed our participation in this new round in the Supreme Court.

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July 2018 Advocacy Update

July 2018 Advocacy Update
by Board President, David Raskin and Board Member, Val Glooschenko

Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain

The Department of Interior (DOI) has completed the scoping hearings for the proposed sale of oil leases in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In spite of many formal requests to have additional hearings to allow testimony from those were not allowed time to speak at the hearings, DOI refused to extend the hearings, and the June 19 deadline for comments has passed. Conservation organizations estimated that at least a half-million comments were submitted in opposition to the lease sale and there were organized demonstrations at several hearings. We thank all of our members who submitted comments.  The DOI fast-track goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) in less than six months seems unrealistic if it is intended to comply with federal law. Conservation organizations are closely monitoring this process and will respond appropriately.

Izembek Land Trade and Road

The lawsuit challenging the proposed land trade and road through the heart of the Izembek wilderness is working its way through the Anchorage Federal District Court as Trustees for Alaska continues its excellent legal work on behalf of Friends and eight other conservation organizations who filed the lawsuit against the proposed land trade and road.  Our legal brief is due on July 11, and the Department of Justice reply brief is due on August 22. We remain optimistic that we will prevail against this destructive, costly, and unnecessary project.

Of interest was a June 26 interchange between President Trump and Senator Murkowski during a meeting with senate Republican appropriators. Ms. Murkowski erroneously stated it is “a non-commercial road that we have been fighting about for 30 years,” although she has previously stated that the road is for economic development, and the language of her own legislation includes authorization for commercial transportation. President Trump replied that in the next couple of months the appropriations “will be complete and they can go ahead and build.” We have very different ideas!

Stop Alaska’s War on Wolves and Bears
by Val Glooschenko

The Department of the Interior has proposed allowing unethical hunting practices on lands managed by the National Park Service?In May 2018, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed the National Park Service to allow extreme hunting methods in Alaska’s national preserves, such as baiting brown bears, killing black bear mothers and cubs in dens, and killing wolves and pups by trapping during denning season.  It is also proposed to allow gunning down migrating caribou while they are swimming and baiting of bears with garbage or donuts.

This unethical attack on bears and wolves on represents a reversal of hunting regulations finalized in 2015 by the Park Service, banning these unsportsmanlike practices. The Park Service implemented its previous 2015 wildlife management regulations after an extensive, multi-year public engagement process in which more than 70,000 Americans spoke out against these shameful hunting methods. However under Ryan Zinke, the National Park Service is being asked to reverse its previous 2015 policy.  Zinke’s reversal, if implemented, would force the Park Service to surrender its authority to protect bears and wolves and return to these shameful and unethical practices

Under leadership of the National Park Conservation Association, a number of conservation organizations are working together to alert the public about this matter.  A strategy is being outlined to generate letters to the editor, opinion pieces, group letters and letters from individual Alaskans opposing the change in park regulations by the National Park Service.  This comment period ends on July 23.

Additional information on this matter is available from the following  websites provided by the National Parks Conservation Association and Defenders of Wildlife: .  

Concerns about the proposed new regulations can be submitted through the NPCA or the Defenders of Wildlife websites or sent directly to the address below: 

Andee Sears, Regional Law Enforcement Specialist, Alaska Regional Office, 240 West 5th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501. Phone (907) 644-3410. Email: AKR_Regulations@nps.gov

Several sample letters follow:

From Members of the Public :

I am an Alaskan (personalize here if possible). Like so many of us, I came to Alaska partially for the opportunity to live in a place with bears and wolves in the wild. I am very disappointed that Secretary Zinke has proposed allowing the state to use extreme sport hunting methods like brown bear baiting to reduce predator populations on national preserves. Those lands were set aside to protect our resources for future generations, including balanced populations of predators and prey. Alaska will be worse off if our national parklands are treated like glorified game farms.

Hunter Letter:

 I am a hunter. It is an important part of Alaska culture.  And I am glad hunting is allowed on the 20 million acres of national preserves in Alaska.  But I don’t support extreme sport hunting measures like brown bear baiting, and I don’t support the state of Alaska’s efforts to reduce bear and wolf populations on national parklands.  That is not what our country’s national park lands are for. The National Park Service needs to stand strong and protect predators and balanced, healthy ecosystems for us and for our children.

Tourism Talking Points

  • Last year, 2.7 million people visited AK national parks and spent $1.3 billion in the state.
  • Those people come to see wildlife, particularly bears.
  • Seeing bears in the wild is a special experience that is transformative for so many visitors, and for so many Alaskans.
  • We need to make sure the Park Service can protect bears, wolves and balanced ecosystems so that visitors and Alaskans have a chance to experience iconic wildlife and so that our tourism economy continues to bring in money for Alaskans.
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June 2018 Advocacy Update

June 2018 Advocacy Update
by Board President, David Raskin

Oil Drilling in the Arctic Coastal Plain
 The 2017 tax law mandated the sale of oil leases in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The proposed oil development would devastate the biological integrity and wilderness character of the crown jewel of National Wildlife Refuge System. It would violate the 1987 signed agreement between the governments of the United States and Canada to protect the porcupine caribou herd that is critical to the subsistence lifestyle and spiritual well-being of the Gwich’in people of Alaska and Canada.  The Department of Interior has fast-tracked this process with a goal of completing a draft environmental statement (DEIS) in less than six months. They have held scoping meetings in Alaska and Washington, DC to receive public comments on what should be included in the DEIS. Along with many others, I testified at the Anchorage hearing to express our opposition to the proposed drilling and to urge thorough examinations of the many issues and problems posed by oil drilling and production (see above). The deadline to submit comments is June 19. You can email them to: blm_ak_coastalplain_EIS@blm.gov

Click here to sign on to our petition demanding the suspension of this ill-conceived scheme or submit your individual comments regarding drilling in the Arctic Refuge to the BLM by clicking here. (the comment link is on the right hand side of the page under “Submit Scoping Comments” please submit comments on the Notice of Intent)
 
Predator Control
 The National Park Service has proposed amendments to its regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves in Alaska. The proposed rules are published at https://federalregister.gov/d/2018-10735. These new rules would remove a regulatory provision issued by the National Park Service in 2015 that prohibited certain sport hunting practices that are otherwise permitted by the State of Alaska. The proposed rules are consistent with Alaska rules that allow taking any black bear, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites; harvesting brown bears over bait; taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season (between May 1 and August 9); taking swimming caribou; taking caribou from motorboats under power; taking black bears over bait; and using dogs to hunt black bears. These methods are inconsistent with responsible wildlife management and are opposed by many biological experts, including those who formulated the rules previously adopted by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the current rules for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which are also being revised. The deadline to submit comments on the proposed Park Service rules is July 23, 2018.
 
Izembek Land Trade and Road
 Recently, the Alaska Department of Transportation inquired about a permit for additional survey work in the proposed road corridor that would involve drilling into the substrate and construction of facilities. The Fish and Wildlife Service informed them that would not be possible as long as the land remains in federal ownership. The lawsuit challenging the proposed land trade and road through the heart of the Izembek wilderness is pending in the Anchorage Federal District Court as Trustees for Alaska continues its excellent legal work on behalf of Friends and eight other conservation organizations who oppose the proposed land trade and road.  This process is working through the many necessary legal steps, and we remain optimistic that we will prevail against this destructive, costly, and unnecessary project.

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Stop Arctic Refuge Drilling

The Trump administration has launched the process to lease the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. In April, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initiated the first step in that process with an environmental review which is preceded by a public comment period which is open until June 19th

Click here to sign on to our petition demanding the suspension of this ill-conceived scheme or submit your individual comments regarding drilling in the Arctic Refuge to the BLM by clicking here. (the comment link is on the right hand side of the page under “Submit Scoping Comments” please submit comments on the Notice of Intent)

Read the Notice of Intent here.



Suggested Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Talking/Commenting Points from the Wilderness Society

  • The Arctic Refuge is an amazing wilderness area that provides essential resources for the Gwichi’in and other Alaska Natives, and recreation opportunities for the general public.
  • The Arctic Refuge is one of the country’s most treasured and beautiful landscapes which should not be destroyed by oil and gas development.
  • The coastal plain is extremely important and globally significant habitat for caribou, migratory bird breeding, wolves, and denning polar bears, as well as other Arctic and Alaskan species.
  • Oil and gas drilling would have devastating impacts on this fragile coastal ecosystem due to the massive and polluting infrastructure needed to explore, produce and transport the oil. This includes sprawling roads, pipelines, drill pads, worker facilities and other infrastructure.
  • Oil drilling infrastructure likely will sprawl over vast stretches of the narrow coastal plain, adversely impacting wildlife and subsistence. Caribou females with calves often avoid infrastructure, and the narrow coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge may limit their ability to shift away from infrastructure like they can do in wider areas near Prudhoe Bay.
  • Oil production will produce greenhouse gases and black carbon which will further harm the Arctic, an area currently warming at twice the rate of most other parts of the planet.
  • The new oil and gas development purpose of the Arctic Refuge conflicts with the other purposes of the refuge. Oil and gas development will degrade subsistence resources and access to those resources including wildlife, plants, water, and air quality, among others.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015, after an extensive analysis, recommended wilderness protection for the coastal plain to Congress.
  • The U.S. and Canada have a 1987 treaty to protect the Porcupine Caribou Herd and that treaty’s obligations must be honored. The BLM needs to coordinate with the Canadian government and indigenous nations on this treaty’s requirements.
  • The Environmental Impact Statement must not be rushed. Procedural and scientific integrity, not political expediency, should drive the timeline. The EIS must utilize best available scientific information and traditional and local knowledge, and obtain data to fill baseline data gaps.
  • Given the major impacts a lease sale(s) will have on wildlife, the Gwich’in people, and others with connections to the Arctic Refuge – in combination with the lack of public debate on the tax law – we request a 60 day extension to the comment period.
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2018 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

Over 1,000 participants joined us in Homer for the 26th Annual Festival: Thursday, May 10th- Sunday, May 13th, 2018.

This Festival is co-sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and USFWS/ Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  Alaska’s largest wildlife viewing festival honors the return of spring and it’s breathtaking bird migration. Homer’s  seaside setting is perfect for spotting over 130 migratory bird species, as well as numerous other resident species.  This event takes a village- the Friends and USFWS coordinated over 70 volunteers and had help from several area organizations such as Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Cook Inletkeeper, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Pratt Museum, the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Homer News, and many more!

 Our Keynote Speakers included Noah Strycker and Iain Campbell. Our distinguished guests presented a variety of workshops and lectures, including presentations on Strycker’s new books, Birding Without Borders.  Campbell offered daily photography workshops as well.  This year’s very popular artwork was created by Homer’s own Erin Rae D’Eimon.  Junior Birders learned valuable birding skills during a variety of school-aged themed workshops and presentations.  

(photos by Brandon Hill, Robin Edwards, Carla Stanley)

After our Saturday Keynote Address, Friends Member Dave Aplin, along with the help of some of the audience showed support for protecting the Arctic Refuge, holding handmade signs and completing petitions:


#DefendtheSacred

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April 2018 – Advocacy Update


April 2018 – Friends Advocacy Update, by Board President David Raskin

The U.S. Department of Interior decision to fast-track drilling leases for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge has spurred considerable efforts to counter this disastrous decision. Planning and strategy meetings were hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC in February, and further meetings were held in Anchorage on March 29. Alaska Friends provided some financial support to this meeting. Major efforts to save the Coastal Plain are being organized across the nation. Social media campaigns are being developed to educate the public and convince the oil industry to refrain from bidding on leases. Also, there have been discussions about litigation to halt this abominable development after 40 years of success in defeating such efforts.

The nine conservation organizations that filed suit in federal court on January 31, 2018 to stop the Department of Interior (DOI) land trade to construct a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge Wilderness decided not to oppose intervenors who support the DOI in the lawsuit. These include Aleutians East Borough, King Cove Corporation, City of King Cove, Agdaagux Tribe, Native Village of Belkofski and State of Alaska. Our attorneys at Trustees for Alaska continue to monitor developments and represent our interests in the federal court. We are optimistic that we will eventually prevail to stop the dismantling of the Wilderness Act and the desecration of the heart of the Izembek Wilderness.

We have not seen any new action by the State of Alaska to to reduce predators in the refuges. We are working with the conservation coalition to stop any effort to interfere with the natural balance and diversity of wildlife populations on our refuges.

The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has prepared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Final Section 4(f) Evaluation for the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Project. It included the following statement:

An important issue for this project is the effect to Federal Wilderness land. The process to approve a transportation corridor through designated Wilderness requires Presidential review and recommendation and Congressional approval. However, the Russian River Land Act (Public Law 107-362, signed by the President in 2002) allows CIRI and the KNWR to exchange lands in this area. In 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior informed FHWA that it would undertake a land exchange that would remove KNWR land status and Federally designated Wilderness status in a portion of KNWR if the Juneau Creek Alternative were selected. Such a land trade would reduce refuge impacts and eliminate Wilderness impacts of the Juneau Creek Alternative. FHWA considers the land exchange reasonably foreseeable and has evaluated this scenario in Section 3.27 (Cumulative Impacts). See Section 2.6.5 and Section 3.27.4 of the EIS for additional detail.

We are concerned about the removal of wilderness protection from federally-designated land in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to accommodate this proposed road construction. If you would like to submit comments, the Final EIS can be viewed at www.sterlinghighway.net

View 2015 Comments on the Sterling Highway Milepost 45 to 60 Project Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement


If you would like to help with these efforts,
please contact David Raskin (davidcraskin@gmail.com)

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