The Associated Press reports that U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will visit Alaska in September.
Haaland committed to U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan during her confirmation meetings that she would meet with residents of King Cove, where community members have been denied by the Interior Department a short gravel road to a life-saving airport.
Sullivan and Murkowski both voted to confirm Haaland on March 15, although at this point it’s unclear which of them will serve as host lawmaker to the radical leftist former New Mexico U.S. Representative. Both Sullivan and Murkowski have received considerable criticism from conservatives for their vote to confirm her.
Justice Department attorney Michael T. Gray told AP that Haaland will travel to Alaska after an appeals court hearing on the Interior Department decision on Aug. 4, and Gray said people in the community are too busy with subsistence fishing to entertain her now.
Haaland “will not complete her review of this matter until she has an opportunity to visit King Cove in person and meet with the people of King Cove and other stakeholders,” Gray told AP.
King Cove and Cold Bay are separated by the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and the Department of Interior has opposed allowing a one-lane gravel road between the communities so that King Cove residents who need medical care can get to the all-weather airport.
Allowing the road to Cold Bay was one of the promises made by former President Donald Trump, but that decision was stopped by federal judges.
A federal District Court decision released on June 1 resoundingly shut down the Interior Department’s second attempt at an illegal land exchange with the King Cove Corporation to make way for a road through vital protected wetlands in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. For the second time, the courts prioritized birds over human life when they told road advocates that the slice through the refuge was unacceptable.