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Alaska and King Cove Corp. Seek to Halt Secretary Haaland’s Withdrawal From Izembek Land Exchange

April 27, 2023

(Anchorage, AK) – The State of Alaska filed an opposition Wednesday to fight for the life-saving road proposed between King Cove and the State’s all-weather airport at Cold Bay by opposing the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) motion to dismiss an appeal pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

DOI’s motion to dismiss is premised on a March 14 decision by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to withdraw from the binding land exchange agreement between DOI and the King Cove Corporation (KCC) approved in 2019. Haaland’s decision was presented to the Court and to the public as a final and unreviewable termination of the binding agreement.

“Secretary Haaland’s decision to halt the land swap means King Cove residents will remain at the mercy of the weather if they need lifesaving medical treatment,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. “The residents of King Cove deserve access to medical care just as much as any other American.”

Secretary Haaland’s decision, and DOI’s motion to dismiss, aligns the federal government’s legal arguments with the environmental groups that were formerly DOI’s opposing party. The Secretary’s decision to withdraw from the land exchange was announced one day after DOI’s approval of the Willow Project.

“Appeasing environmental groups by playing fast and loose with the courts and with the safety and health of King Cove residents, is no way to run a federal agency,” said Alaska Attorney General Taylor.

The remote village of King Cove is 600 nautical miles southwest of Anchorage at the end of the Alaska Peninsula. Residents of King Cove, an Aleut village with population 850, have argued for a road across the refuge to reach an airport with capacity for jets in Cold Bay for medical emergencies and more. Opponents say a road will harm the Refuge. The land trade would allow construction of a gravel road through a section of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Southwestern Alaska.

KCC, a long-term partner with the State in developing a safe and reliable connection across the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which effectively surrounds the community of King Cove, also filed a motion for preliminary injunction with the 9th Circuit seeking to prohibit DOI from taking any actions to implement Secretary Haaland’s March 14, 2023 decision.

DOI’s land exchange with KCC is nearly completed, with the litigation being the only cause of delay. DOI and KCC have each selected lands for exchange, legal descriptions were prepared, plats recorded with full public processes, and appraisals were completed for the lands. The only remaining task before the exchange of deeds is for DOI to complete environmental surveys of the exchange lands, which had to wait until the completion of litigation.

KCC, a village corporation under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, intends to enforce the binding KCC-DOI agreement to finalize the land exchange. KCC’s motion for injunction asks that the 9th Circuit enjoin DOI from taking any actions under Secretary Haaland’s recent decision until after the 9th Circuit issues its decision on the pending appeal. The federally recognized Tribes located at King Cove requested tribal consultation with DOI regarding the Secretary’s March 14, 2023 decision, and DOI filed the motion to dismiss without acknowledgement or consultation with KCC or the Tribes.

The State’s opposition to DOI’s motion to dismiss requests that the 9th Circuit: deny DOI’s motion to dismiss; issue its decision on the pending appeal; and remand to the district court all issues relating to Secretary Haaland’s recent decision to withdraw from the land exchange.

For more information contact Senior Assistant Attorney General Sean Lynch at

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Department Media Contacts: Communications Director Patty Sullivan at or (907) 269-6368. Information Officer Sam Curtis at or (907) 269-6379.