The Department of Interior is reviewing its decision to block the road through the wilderness.
AVCP, a coalition of 56 Native villages in the Y-K Delta, has opposed the would-be road through the wilderness for years. President of AVCP Myron Naneng said the geese Western Alaska Natives rely on for food stop in the Izembek Refuge before heading to Baja California for the winter.
“We’re concerned that once they build the road it’s going to be an open access to those areas where the birds feed on their migration,” he said Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Environmental groups, such as the Wilderness Society, oppose the road because of concerns for the bird habitat.
Officials say the road will be fenced with cable, preventing people from using the road as an access to hunting grounds.
“There’s something else underlying here,” said Aleutians East Borough Mayor Stanley Mack.
Mack said there’s been a long-simmering battle over the intercept fishery at False Pass, and he’s invited Naneng and others from AVCP to the region before to look at the issues – the road, the bird habitats – only to be ignored.
Naneng did not dispute he’s using the road as a negotiating tool.
“The Aleutians have more access to mixed stock salmon stocks, while the people on the river system are restricted from being able to harvest salmon for food,” he said. “If they’re willing to give in, maybe we’re willing to give in on the bird issue.”
Naneng spoke about the issue briefly with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell during a recess of a Capitol Hill hearing this week.
He said he wants the Department of Interior to conduct government to government consultations with the Western Alaska tribes about the road.