Photo credit: U.S. FIsh and Wildlife Service, Kristine Sowl
WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE
The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is 310,000 acres of land on the Alaska Peninsula located between the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Despite its remote location and distinction as the state’s smallest national wildlife refuge, Izembek is home to one of the most ecologically unique of Alaska's refuges that protects a wide variety of fish and wildlife species and their habitats.
The federally designated Izembek Wilderness makes up nearly the entirety of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
The entire world population of emperor geese (approx. 70,000) migrates through Izembek Refuge each spring and fall.
The Southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd moves from its calving grounds north of the refuge to Izembek in late fall to spend the winter.
During peak salmon runs, as many as nine bears per mile have been observed along Izembek’s salmon-rich streams.
More than 200 species of wildlife and nine species of fish can be found in Izembek Refuge.
THE FIGHT TO PROTECT THE IZEMBEK WILDERNESS
Commercial and private interests have for decades advocated for a road through the heart of Izembek Wilderness in order to build a road connecting the town of King Cove with the village of Cold Bay. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior made repeated attempts to push through a land swap intended to trade Izembek Wilderness lands to make way for that road.
Under the Obama administration, following three years of study at a cost of $3 million, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the proposed road through Izembek Refuge was unnecessary, not in the public’s best interests, and harmful to the refuge lands and wildlife. The agency made a scientifically and legally sound assessment that a road through federally designated wilderness within Izembek Refuge would irreparably harm wetlands of international importance to migratory waterfowl and other important wildlife species and have major negative effects on certain bird species and brown bears. So far, federal courts have rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to allow the road, finding a “failure to provide adequate reasoning to support the change in policy in favor of a land exchange and a road.”
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice under President Biden filed a legal brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defending the 2019 land exchange between the Interior Department and King Cove’s Alaska Native village corporation. The land exchange would pave the way for the road.