U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today denounced as heartless and ill-informed the decision by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reject a proposed lifesaving road for the isolated Alaska community of King Cove.
"I am angered and deeply disappointed by Jewell's decision to continue to put the lives of the people of King Cove in danger, simply for the convenience of a few bureaucrats and the alleged peace of the birds in the refuge, despite the fact that many thousands of birds are killed by hunters annually," Murkowski said.
Murkowski said the decision endangers the Aleut people of King Cove and clearly ignores the Interior Department's trust responsibility to Alaska Natives.
"This is a horrible decision at any time, but horribly offensive going into the holidays. It is an additional slap in the face to the people of King Cove and shows that the Department of Interior understands how deeply troubling and problematic is this complete rejection of its native trust responsibility," Murkowski said.
A land exchange approved by Congress in the 2009 -- the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Land Exchange Act -- proposed adding more than 56,000 acres of state and tribal land to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in exchange for a 206-acre road corridor through a corner of the refuge to connect King Cove with an all-weather airport in neighboring Cold Bay. Use of the road would be restricted to emergencies only by law.
"This is not just about King Cove -- it is emblematic of the attitude that we all too often in Alaska see from Washington. The idea that Alaska has to be protected from Alaskans is highly offensive," Murkowski said. "This administration may be willing to abandon the people of King Cove, but I am not going to give up on them."
Murkowski, who is the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and on the Appropriations Committee with jurisdiction over the Interior Department's budget, is considering next steps to protect the people of King Cove.