The better decision would have been to approve the land swap, adding tens of thousands of acres to the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, in exchange for a narrow corridor across the refuge for the King Cove-Cold Bay link. That link remains the safest and surest route to get patients from King Cove to advanced care in Anchorage and beyond for emergencies and routine medical care.
The proposal had strict safeguards for the refuge, which are world-class grounds for migratory birds and wildlife like brown bears and caribou. The road was to be restricted to medical use, bounded by barriers to discourage off-road rambling, and with a specific prohibition against commercial use.
In short, this road was to be a lifeline through the refuge, not the desecration of a sanctuary. Careful construction and smart management could have forged a link that kept traffic light and wildlife thriving.
The road would have crossed precious ground. Hence the land swap and restrictions.
The road also would have saved lives.
Costly? Yes, but the state has expressed a willingness to pay. That's an expression the state should continue to press, because then we're asking Uncle Sam for no greenbacks, just a green light.