Sturgeon v. Masica

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Wildlife Law
  • Date Filed: 10-06-2014
  • Case #: 13-36165; 13-36166
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judges Farris and Nelson
  • Full Text Opinion

Federal regulation that bans hovercraft on rivers within a national park is enforceable when the regulation applies to all land within the conservation area.

Since 1971, John Sturgeon has hunted moose every year on the National River within the Yukon-Charly Rivers National Reserve, part of the National Preserve System (“NPS”). Sturgeon used a hovercraft on his hunting trips since 1990. In 2007, the National Park Service informed Sturgeon that hovercrafts are banned by the NPS in the Yukon-Charly NPS. Sturgeon did not use his hovercraft during the 2008 to 2010 hunting seasons within the NPS. Following the 2010 season, Sturgeon sued the National Park Service, Department of Interior, and individual federal employees, seeking a declaration that the NPS’s ban on hovercraft violates §103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”), which he argues prevents NPS regulation on state-owned lands that fall within NPS in Alaska. The State of Alaska intervened arguing a similar interpretation of the ANILCA regarding the NPS regulations for obtaining permits to conduct research on rivers within the NPS. The district court granted summary judgment to the federal agencies and employees on the grounds that neither Sturgeon nor Alaska properly interpreted the plain language of the ANILCA. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit found that Sturgeon met the requirements for standing because while he never suffered injury from the regulation, threatened enforcement actions qualify as Article III injuries. Alaska, however, did not have standing because the state already obtained the permits required by the NPS to conduct research in the rivers and it did not have plans to conduct future research. The panel also concluded that the ban on hovercraft could be upheld because the ban affected all types of lands within the conservation system unit (“CSU”), or land within the NPS, not just public lands. The plain language of §103(c) states NPS regulations that apply to both public and non-public land within the CSU can be enforced. AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART.

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