Re: “Federal act preserves Alaska and its unique lifestyle, culture” [June 16, Opinion]:
John Sturgeon misrepresented the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness road impacts.
Izembek Refuge is a unique wetland of lagoons, diverse wildlife and upland habitat. The road would traverse a narrow isthmus densely dotted with shallow fresh water ponds that separates lagoons holding the world’s largest eel grass beds vital to emperor geese, brant and eiders. Brown bears, wolves and caribou migrate through this biological heart of Izembek’s wilderness. Indigenous Alaska Native communities rely on this wilderness’ wildlife for their traditional subsistence.
The 2 to 1 U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges v. Haaland erroneously relied on a private land case to authorize the Interior Secretary to exchange federal wilderness land enabling Izembek road construction. The dissent argued the majority misread the law. Under a clear reading of ANILCA, only Congress can authorize such land exchanges.
Allowed to stand, this decision would eviscerate protection of 100 million acres of 13 national parks, 16 wildlife refuges and wilderness by land exchange — devastating ANILCA. That decision must be overturned en banc at the 9th Circuit.
Allen E. Smith, Olympia, former vice president and Alaska regional director of The Wilderness Society