News

Izembek Land Transfer Would Jeopardize Globally Important Bird Habitat

The land transfer would lay the groundwork for a road through Izembek.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

October 16, 2017

MEDIA CONTACT:
Liz Gustafson, Communications Manager, Audubon Alaska, egustafson@audubon.org, 907-276-7034

Izembek land transfer would jeopardize globally important bird habitat

ANCHORAGE, AK—The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Department of the Interior is planning to implement a land transfer with King Cove Corporation in order to facilitate the building of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Izembek is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, and the lagoons at Izembek comprise an Important Bird Area (IBA) of global importance for several waterfowl species.

“A road through Izembek is the first step toward inevitable degradation to this internationally recognized wetland, and sets a bad precedent for our public lands across the nation,” said Nils Warnock, Audubon Alaska’s Executive Director. “This land transfer would be bad for birds and bad for our wild public lands.”

Izembek's cold-water lagoons and internationally significant wetlands are critically-important resting places for migrating waterfowl. Virtually all of the world's Pacific Brant and Emperor Geese stop at Izembek to feed and rest. The refuge also is home to Tundra Swans, Ptarmigan, Bald Eagles, and hundreds of thousands of geese, as well as federally threatened species, such as Steller’s Eiders. Many mammals also use the refuge including caribou, brown bears, wolves, and wolverines.

“Izembek National Wildlife Refuge operates as a chokepoint for Pacific Black Brant and the Emperor goose,” Warnock added. “It is the only place in the world where nearly the entire population of Pacific Brant (more than 90 percent) stops during their migration between Arctic breeding grounds and wintering grounds in Mexico.”

Overwhelming evidence indicates that the underlying purpose for building the road is to provide a commercial connection for the seafood industry. In 2013, then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell decided against authorizing the road, determining that the road would not be in the public’s best interest, a decision supported by several past administrations.

Helpful Links

•             Learn more about the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, an Important Bird Area and Wetland of International Importance: https://ak.audubon.org/sites/g/files/amh551/f/izembek_fact_sheet_migratory_connections_21jul2017.pdf

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Since 1977, Audubon Alaska's mission is to conserve the spectacular natural ecosystems of the state, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Audubon Alaska uses science to identify conservation priorities and support conservation actions and policies, with an emphasis on public lands and waters. Audubon Alaska is a state office of the National Audubon Society. Learn more at www.AudubonAlaska.org and @AudubonAlaska1

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

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