Alaska moose-hunter can 'rev up' his hovercraft, court rules

The Supreme Court building is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. The Supreme Court is returning to arguments over whether the political task of redistricting can be overly partisan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The U.S. Supreme Court says an Alaska hunter can use his hovercraft to hunt moose

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The National Park Service improperly banned an Alaska moose hunter from using a hovercraft on a river through a national preserve, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a unanimous decision.

The court limited the National Park Service's authority to enforce laws and regulations on state-owned rivers in Alaska. Justices rejected the agency's argument that the river was "public land" for regulatory authority and that the agency's water rights interest gave it rule-making authority.

The outcome was a victory for moose hunter John Sturgeon of Anchorage, who had sued and lost in lower court rulings.

"We reverse the decision below and wish Sturgeon good hunting," Justice Elena Kagan said in reading a summary of the decision.

Sturgeon called it "a huge win for Alaska."

"What it basically said is that the federal government doesn't get the manage in-holdings including navigable waters in any of the conservation units in Alaska, and that's huge," he told The Associated Press.

Justices cited the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act that in 1980 set aside 162,500 square miles (420,875 square kilometers) of land for preservation purposes. The law created 10 new national parks, preserves and monuments but said agency rules would not apply on state or private land within the conservation units that are not federally owned.

Sturgeon for 40 years hunted moose along the Nation River, a waterway within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in northeast Alaska. In 2007, he was using a hovercraft, a loud, blower-powered amphibious vehicle that can navigate in shallow water or even mud.

The agency had banned hovercraft in other states. Three Park Service rangers told Sturgeon it was illegal to operate his hovercraft and he headed home.

Sturgeon sued in 2011. After lower courts rejected his arguments, the Supreme Court in 2016 said the 1980 law had carved out numerous Alaska-specific exceptions to the Park Service's general authority over federally managed preserves, such as snowmobile and airplane travel between villages.

Justices sent the case back for reconsideration but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the agency had regulatory authority over a river in a preserve. The Supreme Court justices rejected that conclusion.

The 1980 law creating new parks and reserves surrounded more than 28,125 square miles (72,844 square kilometers) of state, Alaska Native and private land, Kagan wrote. The National Park Service, the court said, has broad authority to administer lands and waterways within parks across the country. However, Congress in the Alaska law added a provision that only "public" land — the federally owned land and waters — would be subject to the federal regulations, Kagan wrote.

The federal government's reserved water right in the Nation River, she said, allows the National Park Service to protect it from depletion or diversion but not to target hovercraft.

"I was very happy that they kind of really understood Alaska. They recognized that the rivers in Alaska are very often our highways, like (Interstate) 5 that goes through California and Oregon and Washington, and the Yukon is kind of our equivalent of I-5," Sturgeon said.

"Sturgeon can again rev up his hovercraft in search of moose," Kagan wrote.

"I thought that was pretty cool," Sturgeon said of Kagan's humorous touches, adding they made the decision feel "real human."

___

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this story from Washington, D.C.

Related News

Slain runner from NYC laid to rest in Massachusetts

Aug 16, 2016

A New York City woman killed while out running near her mother's Massachusetts home was remembered at her funeral Tuesday for the light she brought to the lives of everyone she touched

'American Horror Story' coming to Halloween Horror Nights

Aug 17, 2016

The ghosts, vampires and other freaky misfits from "American Horror Story" are coming to Universal Studios

Casino mogul Wynn readies lavish new Macau resort

Aug 17, 2016

Steve Wynn's Macau resort brims with auspicious Chinese symbolism, and the U.S. casino mogul will need luck on his side as launches his $4.2 billion Wynn Palace project in the gambling hub as growth downshifts

You may also like these

Casino mogul Wynn to launch lavish new $4.2B Macau resort

Aug 17, 2016

Steve Wynn's Macau resort brims with auspicious Chinese symbolism, and the U.S. casino mogul will need luck on his side as launches his $4.2 billion Wynn Palace project in the gambling hub as growth downshifts

Lava meets the sea, puts on fire-spitting show in Hawaii

Aug 18, 2016

For the first time in three years, lava from a volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has reached the Pacific Ocean, where it's creating new land _ and a stunning show for visitors

United Airlines new CEO replaces 2 top executives

Aug 18, 2016

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz named a new chief financial officer and new chief commercial officer

Traveller SEA (South-East Asia) is for wanderlust looking for an adventure in the South-East Asia region and the rest of the world.

Contact us: sales@tvlseacom.com