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Conservationists, hunters criticize Alaska mining road plan

Conservationists and hunters have criticized a state proposal to construct a mining road through northwest Alaska, a report said.

The plan came under fire at a hearing Tuesday, the first of a series of statewide public meetings on the road plan, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

Hunters said the proposed Ambler Road would be closed to the public, while conservationists said it would hurt caribou and other wildlife needed by area villages.

The 200-mile (322-kilometer) project would link Alaska's road system north of Fairbanks to the Ambler Mining District, ending near Ambler and other villages.

Nearly 20 people spoke against the plan during the federal Bureau of Land Management hearing in Anchorage. A smaller group expressed support for the project, saying it could produce jobs and state revenue.

Many of the 22 public meetings over the next month are scheduled to be held in villages that could see significant impacts to subsistence hunting, the BLM said.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority applied for a 50-year right of way across federal lands. The Ambler district holds one of the world's largest, undeveloped copper-zinc belts, the agency said.

The BLM recently released a draft environmental report saying the two-lane gravel road is expected to cost at least $500 million. Opponents said the costs would be much higher.

The road would cross both federal and state lands and should be open to the public, said Melvin Grove, president of the Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance.

"I'm all for development and mining," Grove said. "But to do this for a select few, and leaving out the rest of Alaskans, I totally oppose it."

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