State Joins Lawsuit Challenging NPS Navigable Waters Authority

The state is joining a lawsuit challenging National Park Service authority to regulate navigable waters in Alaska.  The Governor’s office has directed the Department of Law to join a suit filed by Anchorage resident John Sturgeon.

Sturgeon used a hovercraft to moose hunt in the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve until 2007, when he was told the vessel was not permitted in the preserve.  Sturgeon filed a civil suit this fall challenging the Park Service’s authority.

The state owns all submerged lands in Alaska, but the National Park Service maintains it has the right to enforce regulations on waters flowing through parks. Federal law, including the U.S. Constitution and the Alaska National Interest lands Conservation Act mandate state ownership and management, but there are also provisions interpreted to allow some federal regulation.

Similar issues are at play in another case the state intervened in. Central resident Jim Wilde challenged charges stemming from a confrontation with Yukon Charley rangers last year.    Wilde is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in October of interfering with the Park Service, violating a lawful federal order, and operating an unregistered boat.  An appeal challenging the agency’s authority on state navigable waters is likely in the Wilde case.

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