Conservationists line up for Izembek lawsuit

izembek_mapWhen the Interior Department axed a proposal last winter to build a gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, conservation groups cheered.

Now, eight of them are stepping up to defend the government’s decision in court.

The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and Wilderness Watch are among those joining Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a federal lawsuit. According to a recent filing, the groups will focus their arguments on “protecting the exceptional wilderness and wildlife values of Izembek.”

The lawsuit was originally brought forward by local governments, tribes and residents of King Cove and Belkofski.

They’ve been fighting to construct a road through the refuge for decades. When the Interior Secretary turned it down, they argue that she violated her trust responsibility to Alaska Natives — and federal law.

The court has agreed to let the State of Alaska join the lawsuit and help King Cove make its case for road access.