A Happy Holiday for Birds that Depend on Alaskan Wildlife Refuge
On December 23, migratory birds received a fantastic holiday gift—Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell signed the final decision to keep Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska intact, denying a damaging proposed road.
The misguided and harmful proposed road would have cut through Izembek's protected Wilderness, pristine habitat that Audubon and other conservation groups have been working to save for nearly 20 years. Izembek is one of the world's most critically important wetlands for many hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. In some years, virtually all of the world's Pacific Black Brant use Izembek, including birds from Alaska, Russia, and Canada. In addition, up to 70 percent of the world's population of Steller's Eiders, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, use Izembek Lagoon. Long-distance shorebird migrants such as Pacific Golden-Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits also depend on Izembek to fuel up for migration.
After three years of study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in early 2013 that the road would harm the refuge lands and wildlife. Facing Congressional pressure, Secretary Jewell spent the past several months reexamining that decision, including a visit to the refuge. After months of review, Secretary Jewell's announcement last month reaffirms the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's earlier decision to protect this globally significant bird habitat.
Many thanks to all of you, including 36 chapters in the Pacific Flyway, who sent comments and letters in support of keeping Izembek intact. This victory is a wonderful way for Audubon to start 2014!