Proposed Land Exchange in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Raises Legal Questions


May 18, 2023

Aileo Weinmann |  

Proposed Land Exchange in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Raises Legal Questions

Washington, D.C. – Today the Department of the Interior published a Notice of Intent to prepare a supplemental environmental review of a possible land exchange involving Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge for a road. This move signals that the Biden administration is considering using the same improper land exchange mechanism, attempted by Secretary Bernhardt during President Trump’s administration, to privatize public lands that are currently designated as Wilderness within a National Wildlife Refuge.  

Moving forward with such a land exchange not only harms the conservation and subsistence values that Izembek was created to protect, but it would set a dangerous precedent that could undermine protections – through a simple stroke of a pen – for 150-million-acres of conservation lands throughout Alaska. A district court judge previously found that the department could not use the land exchange provision of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) to gut a National Wildlife Refuge and congressionally designated Wilderness Area.

Statement by Kristen Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League: 

“This process puts at risk a celebrated, iconic conservation and subsistence law that has protected 150-million-acres of public lands throughout Alaska from hasty privatization and resource extraction for over four decades,” said Kristen Miller, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League. “By cutting corners and ignoring ANILCA, the precedent that this action could set would undermine protections for subsistence, as well as for beloved National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and designated Wilderness, throughout Alaska. This is the opposite of a legacy that the President should be creating in Alaska, particularly as our nation aims to strengthen land protections for biodiversity and climate.”