Protecting Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

“The Road to Nowhere”

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
Izembek NWR provides important denning habitat for brown bears. | USFWS

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is located on a remote and sparsely populated stretch of Bering Sea coastline in Alaska. This world-class habitat is not only a vital stopover point for migratory birds–including endangered Steller’s eiders and 98 percent of the Pacific brant goose population–but it also shelters animals such as brown bears, fox and caribou.

In 2009, Congress authorized construction of a multimillion-dollar road through the center of this refuge. However, the road could only be built if the Secretary of the Interior found the road in the public interest.

After exhaustive review, in December 2013 Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell supported the USFWS finding that the road and land transfer should be rejected. Despite all this, road proponents in Congress are still fighting to force construction of the road anyway.

Not only is the road unnecessary, it is harmful: it would cut through a federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge and destroy this fragile ecosystem. If the road is ever built, it would set a damaging precedent for national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas on public lands throughout the country, including national parks, national forests, and BLM lands.

In short, if it can happen at Izembek NWR it can happen anywhere.

The Refuge Association’s report “The Road to Nowhere (2009)” spotlights the fiscal waste and environmental harm the road would cause, while our “Red Herring Highway” fact sheet depicts the real reason behind the road – economic development, plain and simple.

The Refuge Association, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and our conservation partners have met with officials at the Department of the Interior and are working diligently to ensure the road is never built through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.



Read the letter from the Refuge Association and 16 conservation organizations to Secretary Salazar urging him to reject the “Road To Nowhere” and our Statement of Position on final passage of “Road To Nowhere” provision.

Up-to-date information from FWS on Izembek can be found at

The Refuge Association submitted scoping comments March 11, 2010:

Pacific black brant at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge | Kristine Sowl, USFWS
Pacific black brant at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge | Kristine Sowl, USFWS

Background on The Road to Nowhere

Izembek NWR, Hovercraft
The 98 foot Suna-X hovercraft can travel in wave heights up to 10 feet 6 inches and winds over 45 miles per hour, and can carry 50 passengers, an ambulance and freight. To date it has completed at least 32 medevacs, saving lives and giving it a 100% success rate.

This Road to Nowhere is a problem Congress has already solved; further debate is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. In 1998, residents of King Cove, a town near the refuge, argued they lacked adequate access to medical and airport facilities. In response, Congress allocated $37.5 million for medical and airport improvements and a 98-foot hovercraft that has successfully provided rapid medical evacuations from the town.

The proposed road would not only impose unnecessary costs on American taxpayers, but it would have devastating impacts on the region’s wildlife. The habitat fragmentation, disturbance and pollution resulting from road construction would cause irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of Pacific black brant, emperor geese, swans and other migratory birds that rely on this refuge, as well as the caribou, bears, fox and other animals that live there.

In addition, the road would set a dangerous precedent for violating the rules of Congressionally designated wilderness areas. By definition, humans are supposed to leave no mark in these areas. If a road is built here, it could open the door for other pristine and irreplaceable wilderness areas to be destroyed across the country.

How can you take action to save Izembek NWR today?

You can join our Action Team and receive alerts on steps you can take to protect the refuge system and the wildlife living within it. Through the Action Network you can learn about the latest measures in Congress and send messages directly to your representative or senator. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!

We need your help to fight this effort every step of the way.  Please consider donating to the Refuge Association TODAY to help us defend our National Wildlife Refuge System.


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