The Biden administration is continuing, at least for now, to defend the Trump administration’s land swap in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
The swap is intended to allow a road through part of the refuge, to link King Cove and Cold Bay. King Cove residents have pushed the Interior Department for decades to allow the road, and it’s been a top priority of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. They say the road could save lives in a medical emergency, by providing access to Cold Bay’s large runway.
Environmental groups argue that a road would threaten bird populations and other wildlife dependent on the refuge. Represented by Trustees for Alaska, they filed a lawsuit and won a court ruling last year halting the land swap.
The Trump administration appealed, and this week the Biden administration filed another brief in that appeal. But the legal filing does not necessarily mean the Biden administration will come out in favor of the swap or the road: An Interior department spokesperson said the policy is under review.
Deb Haaland has been nominated to be Biden’s Interior secretary. At her confirmation hearing last month, she told Murkowski she’s willing to meet with the people of King Cove.