Washington, D.C.

Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland revoked a land swap triggered by the Trump administration that would have paved the way for a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The Department of the Interior will initiate a new environmental analysis to determine if a land exchange and potential gravel road comply with federal laws and regulations.

Following the announcement, Defenders of Wildlife’s President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark issued the following statement:

“We welcome Secretary Haaland’s announcement withdrawing a damaging agreement signed by former Secretary Bernhardt that would have traded away designated Wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to allow for a road. The Izembek wilderness was created under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and today’s announcement marks an important step toward conserving it. At the same time, the announcement is troubling because it contemplates another potential exchange in the future, leaving uncertain whether the Izembek Refuge will remain protected.

“Signed by President Carter in 1980, ANILCA protected over 100 million acres and as one of America’s greatest conservation achievements, it was carefully crafted to protect Alaska’s spectacular lands and important subsistence opportunities. President Carter recently lauded the law, commenting, “Our great nation has never before or since preserved so much of America’s natural and cultural heritage on such a remarkable scale,” and recognized ANILCA as perhaps “the most significant domestic achievement of my political life.”     
“Under ANILCA, the Secretary’s land exchange authority is limited to trades that promote conservation and subsistence values. A completely different title of ANILCA provides the exclusive means of authorizing roads through Alaska’s protected conservation lands. We remain highly concerned that today’s announcement still misunderstands and undermines the protection that ANILCA provides for treasured lands throughout Alaska. We remain committed to protecting ANILCA’s integrity and the important biodiversity values of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. We  look forward to participating in future public processes related to both the Refuge and ANILCA.” 

National Park Service 2023

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit https://defenders.org/newsroom or follow us on X @Defenders.


Media Contact

Senior Vice President, External Affairs


Great blue heron with fish
Chapel Hill, NC

Bird sanctuary protected from planned toxic chemical use this year

As a result of a lawsuit filed by SELC on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to halt its plans to turn an iconic migratory bird sanctuary into a testing ground this summer for a chemical that is toxic to birds.
2023.04.27 - Northern Bobwhite Eggs Burned - Texas - Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CC BY-ND 2.0).jpg

Defenders responds to report on shorebird losses at Boca Chica after SpaceX Starship Launch

Defenders of Wildlife released the following response to a Coastal Bend & Bay Estuaries Program report that points to shorebird nest losses following the June