Supreme Court Agrees To Rehear The Case Of An Alaskan Moose Hunter ‘Threatened’ By The Ninth Circuit

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to rehear the case of an Alaskan moose hunter who is suing the National Park Service (NPS) for forcing him and his hovercraft off the Nation River in 2007.

The Supreme Court heard the case of John Sturgeon in 2016, granting Sturgeon certiorari after the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the NPS. SCOTUS vacated the Ninth Circuit ruling but did not issue one itself, sending the case back to the lower court to process further. The Ninth Circuit has again ruled in favor of the federal government. (RELATED: Supreme Court To Decide If Feds Can Ban Alaskan Man From Hunting Moose On His Hovercraft)

“I respect and agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Mr. Sturgeon’s case for a second time,” Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement. “Alaskans needed the Supreme Court to take this case in order to secure our right to reasonable access to Alaska’s lands and waters and undo the damage threatened by the Ninth Circuit.”

The state of Alaska and its congressional delegation made up of Murkowski, GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan and GOP Rep. Don Young have joined the case on Sturgeon’s side.

Sturgeon’s case rests on the 1958 Alaska Statehood Act, which turned over more than a quarter of the land and all “navigable waters” running through the state to the Alaska government, according to the 2016 SCOTUS ruling.

Sturgeon was traveling by hovercraft over the Nation River, a routine he’s carried on for decades while hunting moose, when NPS rangers found him on a spot of the river that runs through a national park.

Federal law prohibits hovercraft in national parks, but Sturgeon said he was allowed to use his because the state of Alaska owns all the navigable waters in the state, including all lakes and rivers. The NPS held that within the boundaries of the national park, federal law reigns.

Alaska’s national parks were set up by the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The act tripled the amount of protected wilderness in the U.S. by turning 104 million acres in Alaska to protected land. The law also includes some exceptions to federal law specific to Alaska, such as reasonable travel between villages and homes or hunting and fishing for the purpose of food.

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