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Road through Alaska refuge rejected

ANCHORAGE — The federal government said Tuesday it rejected a plan to build a road through a wildlife refuge that would have given a small Aleut village in Alaska better access to medical care.

Villagers in remote King Cove had sought the one-lane gravel road for transporting emergency medical patients to an all-weather airport in Cold Bay, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service said it will choose the ‘‘no action’’ alternative to a proposed land swap for a road corridor bisecting Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

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The decision is a victory for environmental groups that submitted thousands of public comments protesting the road. They said patients can be transported by boat and avoid the refuge on the Alaska Peninsula at the head of the Aleutian Islands.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and the rest of the state’s congressional delegation condemned the decision. King Cove’s airport is frequently closed by high wind and foul weather, she said, and people have died trying to reach hospitals.

‘‘This decision is unacceptable and reflects a wanton disregard for the lives of the Aleut people who have called the Aleutians home for thousands of years,’’ Murkowski said.

Representative Don Young, a Republican, called the decision shameful. Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, said it was wrong-headed.

In the past 30 years, a dozen deaths have been attributed to the lack of a road, including four people who died in a 1981 airplane crash during an attempted medical evacuation.

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