June 21, 2007
PRESS RELEASE: U.S.
HouseCommittee on Natural Resources
Bill To Allow Isolated Aleut
Villagers In Rural Alaska Access To Region's Airport Introduced
In U.S. House;
61,000 Acres To
Be Added To Izembek & Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuges
Washington, D.C. - Legislation
that will add more than 61,000 acres to two Alaska wildlife
refuges while allowing for a road to connect an isolated Aleut
Native community to the region's only safe and reliable airport
has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This major land
exchange will be the first new wilderness land designated in
Alaska by Congress in more than 25 years.
"The Izembek and Alaska
Peninsula Refuge and Wilderness Enhancement and King Cove Safe
Access Act" (H.R. 2801) was introduced by
U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska),
the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee.
A companion bill is to be introduced in the
U.S. Senate by Sen. Lisa
Murkowski (R-Alaska) and is cosponsored by
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
The legislation is
also endorsed by Alaska Gov.
Sara Palin, community and tribal leaders, and the
residents of King Cove. (Attached is a letter from Gov. Palin
regarding the proposal.)
"The Aleut people have
lived in King Cove for more than 4,000 years, yet they have been
completely isolated from the rest of the region since 1980 when
the federal government created a wilderness area between King
Cove and Cold Bay," Young
said. "The people of King Cove need a safe and reliable road to
be able to get to Cold Bay where the state's third largest
airport runway exists.
"Because of the horrific winds and
cold weather, a land route is vital for the residents to be able
to travel between King Cove and Cold Bay. Unfortunately,
several people have been killed trying to fly from King Cove to
Cold Bay during inclement weather because no road currently
"This new legislation will correct
this problem while adding more than 61,000 acres to the two
national wildlife refuges in the region. This is a common sense
solution to a problem that should have been corrected many years
Under H.R. 2801, 61,723 acres
would be added to the Izembek and Alaska Peninsula Wildlife
Refuges. Of this new acreage, 45,493 acres would be designated
as wilderness. Almost 43,000 acres of this land will be
transferred to the refuges from the State of Alaska. The King
Cove Corporation, which was created under the Alaska Native
Claims Settlement Act, is transferring more than 18,000 acres to
the refuges. In addition, the State of Alaska has agreed to
designate Kinzaroff Lagoon near Cold Bay as the State Game
In exchange, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service will transfer 206 acres for the road between
King Cove and Cold Bay. The road will be funded by the State of
"We are so grateful that the
Alaska Delegation, the Governor and the State of Alaska are
supporting this land exchange legislation," said
Ernest Weiss, Mayor of King Cove.
"This is a win-win for everyone involved. The people of King
Cove would get reliable access to Cold Bay with minimum impact
to the environment, while thousands of acres of valuable land
are added to the refuge and to the wilderness."
"We deserve safe and reliable
access just like everybody else in the United States," said
Della Trumble, president of the
King Cove Corporation. "We're hopeful this
legislation will finally give us a solution to this access
Information & Legislative History
Under the bill, the Secretary of
the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of
Transportation, the State of Alaska, King Cove, Agdaagux
Tribal Council, and Aleutians East Borough, will determine the
route of the road. The road will be subject to mitigation
measures recommended in a 2004 environmental impact statement.
Congressman Don Young introduced
similar legislation, H.R. 2259, in the 105th
Congress. That bill was reported by the Resources Committee
but saw no further action. A Senate companion had passed the
Senate but, too, was stalled through the intervention of the
Clinton Administration and some environmental groups.
In 1998 Senator Stevens
appropriated funding for a health clinic and a hovercraft to
assist King Cove with its needs.
However, no doctor is locating
to King Cove, and the City and Borough have determined the
operating costs of a hovercraft are too high to be sustained.
King Cove, the State of Alaska
and the Alaska Congressional Delegation have determined a road
makes the most sense to provide safe and reliable access for
the people of King Cove.
Why The Road Is
Vital To The People Of King Cove
King Cove, Alaska, is located
625 air miles from Anchorage, Alaska, on the south side of the
Alaska Peninsula, on a sand spit fronting Deer Passage and
It is accessible only by air and
water and it is one of the most geographically isolated areas
of the State of Alaska.
Constant adverse weather and
limiting physical topography make traveling in and out of King
Cove directly by air dangerous and impractical much of the
King Cove is the homeland of
Aleut people who are federally recognized as indigenous people
of the United States.
The Agdaagux Tribal Council,
which is the federally recognized tribal government for King
Cove, recognizes that most of the residents of King Cove are
direct descendants of the original Aleut inhabitants.
In the 1940s, an airport capable
of access by jets was constructed by the United States Army at
Cold Bay, which is approximately 25 surface miles north of
King Cove, to support World War II-related national security
While the Cold Bay Airport,
which is now a civilian airport operated by the State of
Alaska, is the lifeline for the King Cove people to the
outside world, particularly for the life, safety, and health
needs of the indigenous residents, there is no surface access
between King Cove and the airport.
Nearly all of the land between
King Cove and Cold Bay is owned by the Federal Government as
part of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and managed as
The Agdaagux Tribal Council
maintains that the Council and the indigenous Aleut people of
King Cove were not consulted before the land that separates
residents from the nearest all-weather airport was designated
as wilderness, even though approximately 1,292 people across
the United States, Canada, and Europe received notice of the
potential designation and during 1969 and 1970, and were
expressly invited by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and
Wildlife (the predecessor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service) to participate in the process of considering whether
the land should be managed as wilderness.
The Council regards the failure
of the Federal government to consult with the Council and the
indigenous Aleut people of King Cove as a "wrong and troubling
action taken by the federal government."
The Council submits that dozens
of King Cove residents have died or suffered grave health
consequences in the past 30 years because the residents could
not reach timely medical assistance in Anchorage, Alaska, that
can only be accessed via the all-weather Cold Bay Airport.
The Council fully endorses and
supports the construction of a road between King Cove and the
Cold Bay Airport as an expression of, and commitment to,
self-determination for the Aleut people of King Cove who were
not consulted before the land vital to the survival of the
Aleut people of King Cove was designated as wilderness.
There is already a network of
existing roads in Cold Bay that reach into the Izembek Refuge
and Wilderness areas.
These Cold Bay roads have long
been used by sport hunters and fishers, birdwatchers, other
visitors, and Federal employees without any known significant
adverse impacts to fish and wildlife populations in the
There was no known opposition
from environmentalists to this Refuge/Wilderness road system.
King Cove requests the same kind
of safe, reliable access enjoyed by people living on the
"other side" of the Izembek Wilderness boundary.
information, access the Committee on Natural Resources' Minority
# # #
Director of Communications
U.S. House Committee on Natural
1329 Longworth HOB