Energy & Environment

Supreme court to rehear Alaska moose hunter, hovercraft case

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to rehear the case of an Alaskan man who sued the National Park Service (NPS) after being removed from a river while using a hovercraft to hunt moose.

The case, brought by John Sturgeon against the NPS in 2011 after he was removed from Alaska’s Nation River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, will come before the Supreme Court for a second time after the court rejected a lower court’s reasoning against him and sent it back for reconsideration in 2016.

{mosads}On rehearing the case last fall, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals once again ruled against Sturgeon, arguing that the NPS has the authority to determine how to preserve and protect the river.

The case will determine the federal government’s right to ban hovercraft vehicles from national parks, even in areas where the state itself does not ban the use of the vehicles. NPS overall bans hovercraft use due to noise concerns and fear of damage to surrounding ecosystems.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, welcomed the lawsuit, saying in a statement that she hoped it would determine that Alaska has the right to determine its own land usages.

“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 9th Circuit,” Murkowski said Monday.

“I hope the court will again rule for Mr. Sturgeon, reject the flawed reasoning of the 9th Circuit and protect the subsistence rights‎ of Alaska’s first peoples and other rural residents under Katie John.”

Murkowski, along with GOP Alaskan lawmakers Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, previously wrote an amicus brief in support of Sturgeon when the case first came before the Supreme Court.

The court’s hearing comes as agencies under President Trump have made a number of policy changes favoring state’s control of their lands.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has consistently embraced the term “cooperative federalism,” and the National Park Service more recently showed support of this policy when it proposed a rule to get rid of federal protections on certain animals in Alaskan refuges, including on black bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens.

Tags Alaska Dan Sullivan Don Young Donald Trump Hovercraft Lisa Murkowski moose national parks NPS Scott Pruitt Supreme Court

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