"I sat there in labor not knowing if I was going to die or my kid was going to die. "
In one of Alaska's most remote outposts, where a thousand hardy souls make their homes, the Obama administration has put the fate of birds and bears above the lives of people, blocking construction of an 11-mile gravel trail connecting a tiny fishing hamlet to a life-saving airport.
King Cove has a clinic, but no hospital or doctor. Residents must fly 600 miles to Anchorage, via Cold Bay's World War II airstrip, for most medical procedures including serious trauma cases and childbirth. Frequent gale-force winds and thick fog often delay or jeopardize medevac flights.
According to local Aleutian elders, 19 people have died since 1980 as a result of the impossible-to-navigate weather conditions during emergency evacuations.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday rejected a proposal for a one-lane gravel road linking the isolated community of King Cove with the all-weather airport in Cold Bay some 22 miles away.
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.”
Della Trumble, spokesperson for the Agdaagux Tribal Council and King Cove Corp., called Jewell's decision "a slap in the face" just in time for the holiday week.
The Interior secretary called her personally, Trumble said, but she was at the store and only got the message when she returned to the office.
"She says that she knows that I'm not going to like her decision and wishes me and my family a very merry Christmas," she said. "I've not returned the call because I don't trust myself."
Etta Kuzakin, a 36-year-old King Cove resident who serves as Agdaagux tribal president, needed an emergency Caesarean section in March after going into early labor with her now 9-month-old daughter, Sunnie Rae. Giving birth in King Cove could have killed her and her baby, she said.
But with medevac flights grounded by ugly weather, Kuzakin waited in labor for 10 hours until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew her out in the afternoon.
"If there had been a road, it would be two hours out," she said. "I sat there in labor not knowing if I was going to die or my kid was going to die. Pretty traumatic."
Back in 1997, Bill Clinton threatened to veto the King Cove Safety Act. Presumably Bill was also listening to the animals.
This is what environmentalists are like. They are constitutionally incapable of empathy for human beings. Instead they deploy a self-righteousness that masks an inner callousness and cruelty.