A provision in an omnibus spending package passed by Congress last week bans the National Park Service from spending money on law enforcement on the Yukon River inside the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve. The ban inserted by Representative Don Young stems from conflicts between local boaters and rangers in the preserve, including the much publicized confrontation between rangers and Central resident Jim Wilde last year. The state and the park service disagree about the federal agency’s authority to do law enforcement on navigable waterways owned by the state of Alaska. Representative Don Young says the ban is specific to the Yukon.
Young had originally pushed to ban all on water law enforcement inside the Yukon Charley Preserve, but the agency objected citing federal mining and subsistence fishing enforcement responsibilities. The Park Service stopped doing on water boat safety checks this spring due to local opposition. Agency spokesman John Quinley says the new restriction will further ratchet back the park Service’s approach.
Quinley says the Park Service remains concerned about boat safety on the Yukon and will try to get its message out in other ways. Jim Wilde is awaiting sentencing on charges stemming from the shore side scuffle he had with rangers, which ensued after he failed to obey their orders during a boat safety check on the Yukon River in September 2010.
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