WASHINGTON (AP) _ A proposal to build a road through a wildlife refuge and wilderness area on Alaska's Aleutian peninsula came under attack from environmentalists Wednesday, but the bill's sponsors said they would push to get it through Congress.

The 30-mile road would provide a land connection between King Cove, a remote fishing village, and the small town of Cold Bay, which has a year-around airport.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said the proposed one-lane gravel road is ``a matter of life and death'' for the fishermen and their families in King Cove because it would allow them access to an airport in case of a medical emergency.

The two lawmakers brought a number of local political leaders from King Cove to Washington, including the community's city manager, to voice support for the legislation.

``This is a legitimate people issue, so that people in King Cove can live like people in the rest of America and have access,'' Murkowski declared at a news conference.

Environmentalists, who strongly oppose the road, say it threatens numerous bird and other species in the Izembek Natural Wildlife Refuge, part of which has been declared a wilderness area. About seven miles of the road would go through the refuge and wilderness area.

``It would be a terribly dangerous precedent,'' said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. He said if the bill passes, it would be the first time Congress has authorized building a new permanent road in a wilderness area.