Press Release Oct 2, 2017

Court Defends Park Service’s Authority to Manage Its Waterways

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the National Park Service, reaffirming the agency’s ability to regulate activities on navigable waters within national park boundaries.

Anchorage, Alaska – Today, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the National Park Service in a case considering the agency’s ability to regulate activities on navigable waters within national park boundaries.

Statement by Jim Adams, Alaska Regional Director for National Parks Conservation Association

“Today’s decision affirms that the Park Service are the best stewards for our country’s national parks. The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve was created to protect rivers, as were many other parks and preserves in Alaska. The Park Service must have a say in what people can do on rivers and lakes within parkland boundaries to protect these special places for all Americans and for future generations.”

BACKGROUND: The case, originally brought in 2007 by John Sturgeon, questioned whether a provision of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) strips the Park Service of its power to regulate navigable waters within the parks.

Alaskans can use a motorboat, snowmachine or airplane to access hunting opportunities in national preserves. Hovercraft are not allowed under longstanding Park Service regulations. Sturgeon, who wishes to use a hovercraft in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, argued that in passing the ANILCA legislation, Congress took away the Park Service’s authority over rivers and lakes within Alaska’s national park sites. Previously, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit both ruled in favor of the Park Service when they heard this case. The Ninth Circuit provided additional review of the argument in 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court.

National Parks Conservation Association participated in the lawsuit as a “friend of the court,” supporting the Park Service in its role as steward of the national parks’ natural resources.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.