Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

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Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Map showing the location of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the location of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
Map of the United States
Location Aleutians East Borough, Alaska, USA
Nearest city Cold Bay, Alaska
Coordinates 55°15′N 162°45′W / 55.250°N 162.750°W / 55.250; -162.750Coordinates: 55°15′N 162°45′W / 55.250°N 162.750°W / 55.250; -162.750
Area 315,000 acres (1,270 km2)[1][2]
Established 1980
Governing body U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Designated: December 18, 1986
Map Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.png

The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is the smallest of the National Wildlife Refuges located in the U.S. state of Alaska. It lies on the northwest (Bering Sea) coastal side of central Aleutians East Borough. Most of the refuge (300,000 acres) was designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.[1] The refuge is administered from offices in Cold Bay.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge lies between the highly productive waters of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Within the heart of the Refuge is Izembek Lagoon, a 30-mile (48 km) long and 5-mile (8.0 km) wide coastal ecosystem that contains one of the world's largest eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds. More than 200 species of wildlife and nine species of fish can be found on the Refuge. Millions of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds find food and shelter in the coastal lagoons and freshwater wetlands on their way to and from their subarctic and arctic breeding grounds. This extraordinary abundance and diversity of waterfowl has attracted international attention. In 1986, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and Izembek State Game Refuge, which encompasses the submerged land of Izembek Lagoon, was the first wetland area in the United States to be recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. In 2001, Izembek Refuge was also designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy.[1]

A contentious bill before Congress proposes a land-swap of 43,000 acres (170 km2) of state land for a single-lane 17-mile (27 km) road connecting King Cove to Cold Bay, passing through Izembek NWR. The bill is supported by the Republicans as well as the local residents and mayor of the Aleutians East Borough, part of Izembek. However, environmentalists contend the road undermines the pristine wildlife and threatens the population of the migratory Black Brant.[2]

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