The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Sally Jewell's nomination to become Interior Secretary by a vote of 19 to 3 on Thursday, after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed to look again at whether to allow a road through Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the panel's top Republican, has lobbied hard in recent weeks for the construction of a gravel road through the wilderness area to ensure residents of the remote community King Cove have reliable access to a neighboring all-weather airport for medical emergencies. Eleven town residents have died in flights related to medical evacuations since 1980.

While the Fish and Wildlife Service determined in February that such a road would jeopardize the refuge's ecological integrity, Salazar issued a memo Wednesday pledging that the department's assistant secretary of Indian Affairs would both hold additional meetings with King Cove residents in Alaska and prepare a report on "whether and to what extent the road is needed to meet medical emergency requirements of King Cove."

Salazar said in a statement that even though the agency’s decision was based on “exhaustive scientific review and extensive public dialogue,” he now believes “that additional steps and dialogue are appropriate before a final decision is made