Tuesday, March 26, 2019 (Anchorage) – Governor Michael J. Dunleavy, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Fish and Game Commissioner Douglas Vincent-Lang hailed today’s unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court in favor of John Sturgeon, a moose hunter legally using a hovercraft on the Nation River in the Yukon Charley Preserve in 2007. National Park Service Rangers threatened to cite him for violating a National Park Service (NPS) ban on using hovercraft in federal park units. Sturgeon sued to protest the NPS action, pursuing the case through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and finally to the United States Supreme Court.
“Today’s ruling represents an important moment for Alaska’s sovereignty and the rule of law,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Once again, the Supreme Court shows why the Ninth Circuit Court is one of the most out of touch and out of line courts in the nation.”
The Sturgeon case hinged on whether Congress gave the National Park Service the right to control access to the State’s navigable waters within federal conservation units, like the Yukon-Charley Preserve.
The landmark decision overturns an earlier Ninth Circuit Court decision and ensures that the state can continue to manage state-owned navigable waterways within federal lands in Alaska.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court means the people of Alaska can continue to exercise their freedom to use state-owned waterways for every legal purpose, including economic development, recreation, hunting, and fishing, without illegitimate restrictions imposed by distant federal authorities,” said Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson.
“This is more than a state rights issue, it is about life in Alaska,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. “Here, our waterways are our lifeblood. Management authority impacts fishing, hunting, transportation and economic development—all the things Alaskans hold dear. With this decision the State can continue to do what it does best: manage Alaska’s resources for the benefit of all Alaskans.”
“This David and Goliath story – a man and his hovercraft against the full weight of the federal government – is far too familiar for Alaskans. But a shining example of our Alaskan spirit and determination. This is an overwhelming victory for John Sturgeon, all those that stood behind him and the State of Alaska and it is long overdue. To quote the court’s decision, John Sturgeon ‘can again rev up his hovercraft’ in search of moose,” said Governor Dunleavy.
The Dunleavy administration believes Alaskans owe a debt of gratitude to John Sturgeon for having the strength to stand up to the power of the federal government to secure rights of all Alaskans to enjoy the full use of state-owned waters for economic development, for recreation, for hunting and for fishing, whether for subsistence or any other legal purpose.