The Ninth Circuit vacated a March ruling allowing a land exchange for a road through a wildlife refuge in Alaska to proceed, and will rehear the case.
The split decision had allowed the Interior Secretary under the Trump administration to overrule Congress and trade away public lands, finding that the administration appropriately weighed environmental interests and the needs of a local community.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel was split 2-1, with the dissenting judge saying the former secretary failed to justify the change in policy. He also said that the finding that environmental harms would be limited by road use restrictions conflicts with the Interior Department’s previous fact findings.
- King Cove, an Alaska Native village company, wants to build the commercial gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to access the City of Cold Bay.
- Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, the Wilderness Society, and seven other environmental groups challenged the land exchange agreement.
- The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled in their favor in June 2020, saying that the agreement doesn’t “advance the purposes” of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
- The Ninth Circuit filed its order for rehearing Thursday, writing that the majority of nonrecused active judges voted to vacate the panel’s decision.
- Trustees for Alaska represents the environmental groups.
The case is Friends of Alaska Nat’l v. Haaland, 9th Cir., No. 20-35721, 11/10/22.