Politics & Policy

The Corner

Zinke Listens to ‘the People’ Instead of ‘the Animals’

Anti-humanism permeates the modern environmental movement, details of which I recounted in The War on Humans. That misanthropy can lead to decisions that create risk to human life and well-being.

Example: In 2014, President Obama’s secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell, told the people of King Cove, Alaska, that she cared more about animals than she cared about their health and welfare when denying their request for a land swap that would permit their seriously ill to be evacuated to a hospital.

King Cove is a fishing village of about 1,000. It does not have an all-weather airport, but another nearby town does. The residents of KC begged the government to be allowed to build a one-lane gravel road through a refuge to the other town so that very ill citizens could be evacuated to the hospital. To sweeten the pot, they were willing to transfer some of its land to the government to add to the refuge.

Absolutely not! Jewell told the town in a town meeting. From the 2014 Fox News story (my emphasis):

During an August visit to Alaska, Jewell was told that building a road that connects King Cove and Cold Bay was vital. But in December, Jewell rejected the road saying it would jeopardize waterfowl in the refuge.

“She stood up in the gymnasium and told those kids, ‘I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,” Democratic state Rep. Bob Herron told a local television station. “You could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium.” . . . 

The land required for the road is less than 1 percent of the total refuge.

The current secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, has a different perspective. He cares about the welfare of people more than a minor disruption that could be caused to migrating birds. So he has changed Jewell’s heartless order to permit the swap and allow the people of King Cove egress for medical emergencies and other minor uses.

Of course environmentalists are going to challenge the agreement — even if it means people in King Cove might die (12 did during medical evacuations between 1980 and 1994). From the Washington Post story:

Randi Spivak, who directs the public lands program for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an email that the advocacy group was prepared to challenge the agreement in federal court if it is finalized. The proposed project, she argued, would probably run afoul of the Wilderness Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

“Bulldozing a road through the heart of the refuge violates federal laws designed to protect Alaska’s pristine wild places,” Spivak said. “Zinke’s backroom deal is an end run around Congress and will destroy world-class wetlands critical to millions of migrating birds, bears and other wildlife. Once it’s destroyed, we’ll never get it back.”

Right. A one-lane gravel road that will receive minor use will “destroy” wetlands.

What a difference an election makes. Jewell was willing to risk sacrificing the lives of people for “the animals.” Zinke has the proper priorities.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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