Following opposition from former President Jimmy Carter, a federal appeals court will reexamine a decision that upheld the approval of a road that would run through a national wildlife refuge.
According to The Hill, on Thursday a majority of non-recused judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the case that authorized the building of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska be reheard.
Supporters of the building project say the road would connect the small King Cove community to an airport they claim is important for emergency medical evacuation, while opponents argue the road would be detrimental to the plant and animal species and natural resources of the wildlife refuge.
Carter took the rare step of weighing in after a three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit upheld a Trump-era decision that supported the road's construction.
"The understanding adopted by the panel majority here is not only deeply mistaken, it is also dangerous," Carter wrote.
The former president argued that the panel's interpretation could be applied to future decisions, in direct contrast to the law's intent.
"The secretarial powers the decision recognized would apply equally to National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, as well as Wilderness Areas and other conservation lands, and to all manner of development and extractive activities, not just road building," he wrote.
"Congress's landmark action — the culmination of years of study and struggle — to designate for permanent preservation specific unrivaled national interest lands would be negated."
In the original ruling, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) allowed the Interior Department to determine the balance between environmental interests and economic and social ones.
Carter maintained thatANILCA's language described what the law achieved and did not permit additional economic issues to overrule ecological concerns.
David Raskin, president of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, called the move the beginning of rescinding the approval of an "unnecessary and destructive road," in a statement.
Della Trumble, the head of the King Cove Corp., an Alaskan Native corporation that supports the road, told the Anchorage Daily News that it's "really sad that the national and local environmental groups keep upholding this."
"It's very frustrating and disheartening that this continues," Trumble said.
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