Hovercraft Ban on Alaska River Upheld

An Alaskan moose hunter lost his challenge to a federal ban on use of a personal hovercraft on a river in the Yukon Rivers National Preserve in a federal appeals court ruling Monday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected John Sturgeon’s claim that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act prevents the National Parks Service from regulating activity on the state-owned lands and navigable waters inside the national park system.

Sturgeon has hunted moose every year since 1971.  In 1990 he bought personal hovercraft for use on his hunting trips, but in 2007 NPS enforcement officers found him own the river and warned him the craft was banned.

He removed the craft in the face of potential civil and criminal liability but continued to protest the ban.

Alaska also intervened in his lawsuit raising the same arguments that federal NPS officials had no authority to regulate state-owned lands and waters in the park.

The appeals court found Alaska had not standing to intervene and ordered the claim dismissed.

The panel held that while Sturgeon did have legal standing to challenge the ban, he still lost based on the plain reading of the statute language.

In 1976, Congress gave the NPS power to regulate and manage waterways in the national park system.  Even if land and water within the park were conveyed to the state, that does not preclude the NPS enforcement of its regulations.

The opinion was written by Judge Jacqueline Nguyen and joined by Judges Jerome Farris and Dorothy Nelson.

Case:  Sturgeon v. Masica, No. 13-36165


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