Mr. Sturgeon goes to Washington….Again.

By Wayne Heimer, Craig Compeau and Mary Bishop, April 2018.

Alaskan John Sturgeon is headed back to the US Supreme Court.  He’s trying to protect Alaskans’ rights to use the property that came to us at statehood, namely the right to travel on Alaska’s rivers and lakes called “navigable water.”  You’d think Alaska’s title to navigable water means Alaska could manage travel on Alaska’s waterways that can be “navigated.”  The feds don’t think so.  They want to control what happens on Alaska’s navigable waters—including what types of boats can be used when our rivers pass by the National Park Service’s land.  John “got into it” with the feds over use of the Yukon River to get to his historic moose hunting spot.  He’d been using a small hovercraft to get there for 25 years when the Park Service “busted” him because they don’t like hovercraft.

 

    Now John Sturgeon needs help from ALL Alaskans.  Please take a blue card and consider making a cash or in-kind contribution to this most important cause.  All funds will go directly to help offset John’s massive legal bills which are now approaching 1 million dollars.  Join the fight to help this remarkable Alaskan.

 

Nobody quite knows where the idea to ban hovercraft on all National Park lands came from.  Folklore holds it originated on the Potomac River as an NPS response to a request to run large hovercraft ferries on the Potomac to relieve traffic congestion in Washington D.C. in 1983.  The Potomac runs between some federal lands so the Park Service got to comment on the permit application, didn’t like hovercraft, and banned them on ALL Park Service land by regulation.  It’s been a third of a century since the feds made the anti-hovercraft rule, and they’ve conveniently expanded it from urban D.C. to the Alaska wilderness.

 

After the feds “busted” Mr. Sturgeon, he went to court and fought them all the way to the US Supreme Court.  He won by an 8-0 decision.  The Supreme Court sent the case back to the 9th Circuit Appeals Court, and told the 9th Circuit to “fix it.”

 

Over what seems to be a control issue, the 9th Circuit didn’t “fix” its mistake.  Instead, it “doubled down,” claiming federal control over what uses are allowed on Alaska’s navigable waters.  In spite of it not being clear what an Alaska resident’s moose hunt has to do with interstate commerce, the Circuit Court is hoping to use the “commerce clause” of the US Constitution to expand control over what uses are allowed on the navigable waters of all 50 states.  Essentially, the feds are claiming all navigable waters originating on or flowing through federal lands are really “land” they own and manage.

 

This isn’t the first time lawyers have claimed “water” is “land.”   Many years ago when the subsistence issue was being fought out in court, a Native elder named Katie John’s lawyers made this same claim.  Katie lost on that count, among three of her four claims, winning on only what was called “reserved federal water rights.”  That’s basically technical irrigation law and was the basis Mr. Sturgeon won on in his first trip to the US Supreme Court.  The fact that the 9th Circuit now claims Alaska’s water is federal land (if it flows past a National Park) could re-ignite the subsistence controversy in Alaska.

 

Originally, this case was about one guy using a hovercraft to hunt moose on a remote river in Alaska.  Now, it’s much bigger than that. It is about the way the feds generate and enforce regulations that might have made sense to them on the Potomac River thirty-five years ago, but don’t make sense in the middle of Alaska, or in other states, today.

To donate visit the alaskaoutdoorcouncil.org website.  Fill out the information and choose John Sturgeon legal battle over navigable waters fund (AFWCF-Tax Deductible) under the Donation section.

What Stop the Overreach is about

Webster’s dictionary defines OVERREACH as: to try to do something that is beyond your ability to do.

When it comes to Alaska, there might as well be a photo of Barak Obama and Sally Jewell included within that section of the dictionary. Alaska is under attack by a runaway federal overreach train and Obama and his hard core environmental supporters are at the controls.

In late January, President Barack Obama said that he planned to ask Congress to declare much of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, including its 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, an area on Alaska’s North Slope suspected to contain vast reserves of oil and gas.

Since 1980, when the Arctic refuge was expanded from 9 million acres to 19 million acres by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, there’s been a stalemate over the coastal plain. The 1980 law left the plain in limbo, with congressional action required to open it to development or seal it permanently. [Read More]

Maps of ANWR

Truth in Pictures

Donate to the Sturgeon Legal Fight

AOC is asking for your help in paying John Sturgeon's legal fees as he elevates his access case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Sturgeon, an Alaskan citizen, has achieved a feat that the state of Alaska and Alaska’s Congressional Delegation has been unable to correct for the last 20 years. Mr. Sturgeon was unwilling to be forced off state owned waters by National Park Service (NPS) Rangers just because of a 1996 federal rulemaking by the Department of the Interior. Mr. Sturgeon has been battling "up the chain" of federal courts since 2011 trying to stop NPS from forcing him off state managed waters. That has cost him a lot of attorney fees.

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