A federal judge has again stopped the State of Alaska and the Trump administration from bulldozing a road through the Izembek Wilderness in Alaska! In a June 1 decision, Senior Judge John Sedwick ruled against Interior Secretary David Bernhardt's closed-door agreement for a land exchange of federal public lands in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness that the State of Alaska wants in order to punch a road through this spectacular Wilderness.
“Once again, an illegal land trade scheme by the Trump administration to build a road across the Izembek Refuge Wilderness has been stopped by a court decision,” said Fran Mauer, Alaska Chapter of Wilderness Watch. “This decision not only protects the incomparable wildlife and Wilderness of Izembek, but it also helps to preserve the integrity of the National Wilderness Preservation System from a harmful precedent.”
On August 7, 2019 Trustees for Alaska filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wilderness Watch and several co-plaintiffs challenging the construction of a 12-mile-long road through the Izembek Wilderness. Our fight to protect the Izembek Wilderness has waged since 2008, including two previous successful lawsuits. In March 2019, a federal judge ruled against a land trade scheme authored by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Bernhardt’s deal was similar to Zinke’s but would have also opened the road to commercial use. This latest ruling rejected the latest land trade scheme on similar grounds as the first.
The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is 95 percent Wilderness, and serves as critically important wildlife habitat and as a major crossroad for international bird migration. A road slicing through this wild masterpiece would be an unspeakable travesty.
Many thanks and kudos to Trustees for Alaska for securing this critical victory for the Izembek Wilderness and the wildlife that call it home. And a big thank you our members and supporters who wrote thousands of letters to decision-makers and contributed to our efforts over the years—this victory belongs to all of you!