Former President Carter is taking the rare step of intervening in legal proceedings, saying an appeals court is misinterpreting a conservation law he signed.
On Monday, Carter filed a briefing reprimanding a decision that upheld a Trump-era decision to build a road through a national wildlife refuge to allow medical evacuations nearby.
Carter, in an amicus brief, argued that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision had “misinterpreted” the law in question, called the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act ( ANILCA).
“The understanding adopted by the majority of the panel here is not only deeply flawed, it is also dangerous,” Carter wrote.
He wrote that the committee’s findings could be applied to other decisions in the future, circumventing what he described as the intent of the law.
“The secretariat powers recognized by the decision would also apply to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, as well as wilderness areas and other conservation lands, and all kinds of development activities. and extraction, not just road building,” he wrote. “Congress’s historic action – the culmination of years of study and struggle – to designate for permanent preservation purposes unparalleled Specific National Interest Lands would be reversed.”
In its decision, the panel of judges argued that in law, Congress allowed then-Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to strike an “appropriate balance” between environmental interests and economic needs and social.
But Carter wrote that the law’s reference to “adequate” social and economic needs describes what the legislation had achieved and did not allow for future decisions that would sacrifice conservation in the interest of balance.
“When Congress characterized ANILCA as striking an ‘adequate’ balance between conservation and use…it was not, as the majority panel’s decision assumed, to authorize future secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to exchange land with irreplaceable ecological and subsistence values for economic benefits,” the former president wrote.
“Rather, the statute described the end state that congressional enactments had reached,” he added.
The road in question would pass through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge as part of a land swap between the Department of the Interior and an Alaska Native company called King Cove Corp.
The company said the road would provide access to an airport and emergency flights, while conservationists raised concerns about both the species’ habitats in the refuge and the precedent the land swap would set.