A Hunter’s Fight With The Feds Gets State Support

John Sturgeon photo by Alaska Safari Club Facebook page.


An Alaska moose hunter, John Sturgeon, has been in a lengthy legal battle with the federal government regardling his desire to use his hovercraft to hunt on government land. His conflict with the National Park Service dates back a decade and has gone all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Now, as the legal action continues, the Fairbanks News-Miner  reports that Sturgeon’s cause is being boosted by the state of Alaska:

Alaska’s state government is continuing to support a 10-year-old struggle with the National Park Service over the federal government’s authority to regulate hovercrafts in a river in the Interior.

Alaska’s governors and Congressional delegations have consistently supported the lawsuit of Anchorage moose hunter John Sturgeon, arguing the case defends the State’s rights to manage its own lands. On Monday, Alaska filed a new “friend of the court” brief in support of Sturgeon as he asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case for a second time.  

“The State owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Sturgeon for continuing this fight, and the least we can do is support him in his efforts and defend the State’s sovereign rights,” Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in a written statement. “We have and will continue working closely with John Sturgeon and his legal team to again seek Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit decision. We hope the Court will act to uphold Alaska’s sovereign interest in managing its lands and waters.” 

In 2007, Sturgeon was traveling by hovercraft on a shallow river in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in order to reach his regular moose hunting grounds. National Park Service rangers contacted him on a sandbar and told him the hovercraft couldn’t be used on the river because of a national Park Service regulation against hovercrafts.  

Sturgeon later sued the park service over the hovercraft rule. Sturgeon argues that the federal government can’t enforce its rules on state lands — such as the riverbeds of navigable streams — under the 1980 law that created many of Alaska’s national parks, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Sturgeon and his supporters have spent about $800,000 on the case so far. 

The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case in 2016, but sent the most important issues down to a lower court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Sturgeon. Last month, Sturgeon petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari. 

 Monday’s 27-page brief from Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth echos many of the arguments made by Sturgeon’s attorneys. She argues the precedent set by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would allow the federal government to claim authority over other state lands in Alaska.