Press Release Jun 18, 2018

Disappointing: Supreme Court To Reconsider Park Service Authority Over Waterways in Alaska

The Supreme Court agreed to consider a case involving the National Park Service’s ability to regulate hovercraft and other activities on navigable waters within national park boundaries.

WASHINGTON – Today, the Supreme Court agreed to consider a case involving the National Park Service’s ability to regulate hovercraft and other activities on navigable waters within national park boundaries.

The case, originally brought against the Park Service in 2011 by John Sturgeon and supported by the state of Alaska, questions whether a provision of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) strips the Park Service of its power to regulate navigable waters within the parks. In 2007, Sturgeon was operating his hovercraft on the Nation River in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve when rangers informed him its use was illegal.

National Parks Conservation Association, represented by Trustees for Alaska, 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.

Alaskans can use a motorboat, snowmachine or airplane to access hunting opportunities in national preserves. Hovercraft have long been prohibited under Park Service regulations for the noise they produce and their ability to travel over gravel bars, onto wetlands and over tundra, causing significant damage to wildlife habitat.

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. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Park Service a second time in 2017, after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court.

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

“Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve was created in part to protect the rivers and lakes that run through this unspoiled wilderness. Alaska’s rivers and lakes are among the wildest places in the world. If the Park Service loses its authority to protect them within the boundaries of Alaska’s parks, the Alatna in Gates of the Arctic National Park, the rivers and lakes of Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve, and the waterways of many other Alaska parks will lose part of the ‘wild’ that makes them special. It is time for the Supreme Court to lay to rest this tired power grab.”

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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 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.