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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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March 2018 – Advocacy Update


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

The U.S. Department of Interior has placed drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge on the fast track. Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash held closed-door meetings in Fairbanks and Anchorage to promote leasing and drilling in the Refuge. They have stated a goal of selling leases by 2019. These moves are strongly opposed by conservation organizations and many Alaska residents.

The Gwich’n people will be severely impacted by proposed industrialization of the Coastal Plain. Many describe this as a moral issue that violates their lifestyle and historical dependence on the caribou herd that uses the Coastal Plain to calve and raise their young. Opponents to the proposed drilling staged public demonstrations to express their concerns. Opposition to the government and the Alaska congressional delegation is spearheaded by a national coalition of conservation organizations. Planning and strategy meetings were hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC last month, and further meetings will be held in Anchorage on March 28-29. This major effort to save the Coastal Plain is being organized across the nation.

Our lawsuit along with eight other conservation organizations opposing the Department of Interior land trade for construction of a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge Wilderness was filed in federal court on January 31, 2018. It appears that proponents of the land trade and road will enter the lawsuit as intervenors to support the government. The Aleutians East Borough voted to enter the lawsuit on the side of the government. The Borough approved spending $61,875 to hire a law firm to help them join the case. That money will also help four other local entities trying to intervene on behalf of the federal government, the King Cove Corporation, The City of King Cove, the Agdaagux Tribe, and the Native Village of Belkofski. The State of Alaska is also expected to intervene on behalf of the government. These interventions must be approved by the court, and 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.

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

Advocacy Update by FANWR President, David Raskin

On January 31, 2018, Trustees for Alaska filed suit in Anchorage Federal District Court on behalf of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and eight national environmental groups. This lawsuit challenges the legality of the land trade that would allow the construction of a road through the biological heart of designated wilderness in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. The complaint alleges that this land trade by the Secretary of the Interior, which would trade up to 500 acres of designated wilderness in the ecologically sensitive Izembek Isthmus for non-refuge lands owned by the King Cove Corporation, violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It also alleges that Secretary Zinke failed to perform the consultations required by the federal Endangered Species Act. In addition to these violations, this would be the first time that congressionally-designated wilderness lands would be removed from the National Wilderness Preservation System, setting a precedent that would threaten all protected wilderness areas and all federal public lands in our nation.

This lawsuit is the latest episode in a 35-year campaign  to build a road that would connect the fishing village of King Cove to Cold Bay, which has a major airport with direct service to Anchorage. Although road proponents claim that the road is needed for medical evacuations during frequent intense storms, a 30-year paper trail reveals that two Alaska governors, Senators Frank and Lisa Murkowski, and the Aleutians East Borough have promoted the road for commercial purposes to haul fish and workers for the largest cannery in Alaska that is owned by Japanese Peter Pan Seafoods. During this campaign, the 900 residents of King Cove have received at least $50 million federal dollars for upgrades to their health services, 17 miles of road with two hovercraft launch facilities, and the purchase of a $9 million hovercraft that performed flawlessly in 32 medical evacuations. They have since abandoned the hovercraft and refuse to consider other reasonable transportation alternatives evaluated bu the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers. Completion of the proposed road would cost at least another $20 million federal dollars and require extremely expensive annual maintenance that would likely fail to keep the road passable during winter storms. The former local medical director for Indian Health Services has stated that attempting to travel the proposed road during winters storms would jeopardize the lives of patients and emergency personnel.


Beginning in the mid-1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed three major scientific evaluations and environmental impact studies, all of which concluded that the proposed road would do irreparable harm to the habitat and wildlife of the internationally-recognized Izembek Refuge. The latest evaluation was the environmental analysis required by the inclusion of the proposed land trade in the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. Following a 4-year, exhaustive scientific study, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the proposed road would cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to habitat and wildlife and was not approved. This decision was upheld by then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. A federal lawsuit by the State of Alaska and local interests against the Secretary’s wise decision was eventually dismissed by the Court. Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and other environmental organizations had participated as intervenors on behalf of the the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary in this successful effort to prevent this unnecessary and destructive road. Along with other organizations, we have taken the latest step in the decades-old battle to prevent the construction of an unnecessary, costly, and environmentally destructive road that not only threatens the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, but would set a dangerous precedent for all of our precious public lands.


Review Official documents here:
Notice of Violation
Filed Complaint