Ahead of Today’s King Cove Road Floor Vote, Grijalva Says to Listen to Scientists

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of today’s House floor vote on the Republican-backed King Cove Road Land Exchange Act (H.R. 218) – a bill that greenlights construction of a habitat-destroying road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) pointed out that claims that the people of King Cove have been ignored by Congress are completely false. In fact, American taxpayers have handed over more than $30 million to help the town develop a reliable and safe transportation and healthcare system. Part of the money was allocated to purchase a $9 million hovercraft to allow for water access to Cold Bay. However, the Aleutians East Borough took it out of service and it’s currently on sale for $5 million.

The Izembek Refuge is subject to frequent violent storms and a road would not be a viable evacuation route during inclement weather. As pointed out by the Army Corps of Engineers, there are viable transportation alternatives that would be more reliable than a road through a wilderness area.

Congress authorized this land exchange in 2009, but required a study to determine whether the road was in the public interest. After a transparent, four-year review, the Obama administration determined the project was not. During the review, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) held over 130 meetings and analyzed thousands of public comments - 70,111 of the 71,960 public comments were opposed to construction of the road. H.R. 218 ignores this due diligence and authorizes the road without further review or public input. This undermines a number of bedrock conservation laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.

“This bill is asking us to forget the millions of dollars hard-working Americans granted to the State of Alaska to support this community, and to ignore the scientific findings that the road shouldn’t be built because it disturbs a wilderness area and puts prime wildlife habitat at risk when better alternatives exist,” Grijalva said. “This isn't about making a political statement or anyone's personal opinion – this is about allowing scientific analysis and public input to guide our transportation projects and spending.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has unsuccessfully pushed for the road to be built for nearly two decades. If signed into law, the bill would set a dangerous precedent for public land giveaways and would create a destructive model of undermining national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas across the nation. 

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