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King Cove Residents Applaud Interior Department’s Decision to Take Closer Look at Proposed Road and Land Exchange 3/21/13

King Cove, AK – March 21, 2013 – King Cove residents are praising the Interior Department for agreeing to take a second look at the proposed land exchange and small road corridor from remote King Cove to Cold Bay. Last night, Senator Lisa Murkowski held a meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Today, the Interior Department announced that it will review the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s opposition to the life-saving road.

“We are so pleased and satisfied that the Interior Department has agreed to take a closer look at the environmental impact statement (EIS) by the Fish and Wildlife Service”, said Della Trumble, spokeswoman for the King Cove (Native) Corporation and the Agdaagux Tribal Council of King Cove. “We believe that the human factor, the safety of the King Cove residents, wasn’t given serious consideration, as required by law. We appreciate that the Interior Department will focus on its responsibility to protect the well-being of Alaska Natives. We’re just asking that the Department fulfill its native trust responsibilities to the people of King Cove. That has been what we’ve been asking for during this entire process.”

Secretary Salazar agreed with Murkowski’s request to conduct public meetings with Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.  The review process will be conducted by Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and overseen by the Secretary of the Interior.

“We’d like to thank Senator Murkowski for insisting that this process be done the right way,” said Aleutians East Borough Mayor Stanley Mack. “Protecting the environment is important, but so are the lives of the Aleut people in King Cove, who have lived here for thousands of years. We can balance the safety of people with the needs of the wildlife and surrounding wilderness. We have proven that we are excellent stewards of the land, and we will continue to do so.”

“We are so appreciative of the support from Senators Murkowski and Begich and Representative Don Young, as well as the State of Alaska,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack. “Without it, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

Secretary Salazar announced that a final decision on the proposed land exchange and road corridor will not be made until the review is completed.

Senator Murkowski also announced that she and Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell, if she is confirmed, will travel to King Cove soon to hear residents’ concerns first-hand and see the area.

“This gives us hope that the safety and needs of King Cove residents will truly be taken into consideration this time,” said Della Trumble. “We are so glad that this process appears to be moving ahead in a fair and just manner.”

Background:

If the Interior Department does approve the land exchange and road construction, the federal government would receive more than 56,000 acres of pristine land (43,093 acres of state land and 13,300 acres of land owned by the King Cove Corporation). As part of the land swap, 206 acres would be conveyed to the State of Alaska for a small, single-lane gravel road leading to the all-weather airport in the neighboring community of Cold Bay. The State of Alaska would also receive 1,600 acres from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge on Sitkinak Island south of Kodiak.

For more information, visit http://www.izembekenhancement.org/ http://www.kingcoveview.com/ and http://www.aleutianseast.org/ .  

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