Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ninth Circuit Affirms Park Service’s Authority to Ban Hovercrafts on Alaskan River

On October 6, the Ninth Circuit (Farris, Nelson, Nguyen) issued a decision in Sturgeon v. Masica, No. 13-36165.  Plaintiff John Sturgeon used a personal hovercraft on moose hunting trips on the Nation River, part of which lies within the Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska.  A National Park Service regulation bans hovercrafts on waters located within the boundaries of the National Park System.  36 C.F.R. § 2.17(e).  Sturgeon brought suit to challenge the regulation, arguing that § 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”) precludes the Park Service from regulating use of the Nation River, which he claimed had been conveyed to the State of Alaska.  ANILCA § 103(c), 16 U.S.C. § 3103(c), provides that no Alaskan lands which have been conveyed “to the State, to any Native Corporation, or to any private party shall be subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands within [conservation system units].”  The Ninth Circuit, after holding that Sturgeon had standing to bring his claim, held that the Park Service’s regulation against hovercrafts applied to all lands, whether federally owned or not, within park boundaries and therefore was not a regulation “applicable solely to public lands” within the meaning of ANILCA § 103(c).  Accordingly, regardless whether the lands underlying the Nation River had been conveyed to the State, ANILCA § 103(c) did not preclude the hovercraft regulation.

—Todd Aagaard

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