King Cove Residents Outraged over USFWS Recommendation to Reject Proposed Land Exchange, Road Corridor
February 9, 2013
King Cove, AK – Feb. 5, 2013 – King Cove tribal and community leaders are offended by the federal government’s decision to recommend against building a small gravel road corridor linking the remote Aleut community to the Cold Bay Airport. The single-lane road would have provided the 950 residents with access to better health care and quality of life. Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that it has chosen the “no action” alternative rather than a proposed land exchange and single-lane road corridor that would traverse a small section of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The USFWS recommendation was made during the environmental impact statement (EIS) of the land exchange and proposed road corridor.
“This is an outrage,” said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for the King Cove (Native) Corporation and Agdaagux Tribal Council of King Cove. “This recommendation is completely unfair and insensitive to the indigenous people who have been stewards of this land for thousands of years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is clearly biased against the Aleut people. This demonstrates that the federal government believes the Aleut people matter less than the tundra swan and the black Brandt.”
The land swap would have given the federal government 56,000 acres of pristine land (43,093 acres of state land and 13,300 acres of land owned by the King Cove Corporation). In exchange, 206 acres would have been removed from the refuge for a single-lane gravel road. The federal government would have also received 1,600 acres from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge on Sitkinak Island south of Kodiak.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t listened to us throughout the EIS process,” said Aleutians East Borough Stanley Mack. “The Service refused to consider the information we provided to them and instead moved forward with this biased recommendation. We have tried on six different occasions to meet with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and we were turned down every time. We’re still hopeful he will do the right thing and overturn this recommendation.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommendation will be published tomorrow (Feb. 6, 2013) in the Federal Register. On Feb. 15, 2013, the EIS becomes final. It will be followed by a 30-day comment period. A final record of decision will be published within 30 days. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior will then decide what’s in the public’s interest.
“This isn’t over,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “We’re not giving up. We’re not going to stop fighting until we get the road that the Aleut people so desperately need and deserve.”