Resource Development Council

RDC Comment Letter:
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange

April 23, 2010

Ms. Helen Clough, Project Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 E. Tudor Road, MS-231
Anchorage, AK 99503

Re: Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange

Dear Ms. Clough:

For over a decade, the Resource Development Council (RDC) has consistently advocated for a road link between King Cove and Cold Bay. RDC strongly believes that a road corridor from King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay is in the public interest. In our view, this is a public safety and human rights issue, which should be given the highest priority.

RDC is a statewide business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska's oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. RDC's membership includes Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC's purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state's economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

The proposed land exchange would involve the removal of only 206 acres within the Izembek Wilderness for the road corridor and 1,600 acres of federal land within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In exchange, the federal government would receive more than 43,000 acres of land owned by the State and approximately 13,000 acres of land owned by the King Cove Corporation near Cold Bay and adjacent to the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge. Overall, the exchange would add more than 56,000 acres to the Izembek and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges and designate 43,000 acres as Wilderness.

Clearly, this exchange would provide a net gain for the national wildlife refuge system while providing a vital public safety and human health access corridor for King Cove residents to Cold Bay and its all-weather airport. The land trade is more than fair and the road would be narrow and unobtrusive. The road will be closed to commercial traffic and mitigation strategies will allow it, the environment and wildlife to coexist. The road would solve the community’s perennial problem with access to the outside world, especially in poor weather conditions.

Meanwhile, the marine link between the two communities has not solved King Cove’s transportation challenges in reaching Cold Bay and its airport. The hovercraft requires a substantial subsidy, which cannot be sustained. Moreover, poor weather conditions can prevent the operation of the hovercraft, while the entire reason for improved access is largely because of the region’s weather. The road has always been the community’s first choice because it provides residents with the greatest amount of security, mobility, peace of mind and quality of life.

The spirit of this proposed land exchange would recognize and honor with equal regard the human side of conservation, alongside wildlife and wilderness. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must acknowledge local needs and the fact that current transportation infrastructure does not meet these needs. The EIS should conclude that the proposed road, with appropriate mitigation strategies to limit impacts, would best meet human health and safety needs.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on a land exchange that is so critical to the future health and welfare of local residents.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.