Sturgeon v. Frost

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Property Law
  • Date Filed: June 18, 2018
  • Case #: 17-949
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 872 F.3d 927 (9th Cir. 2017)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) prohibits the National Park Service (NPS) from exercising regulatory control over State, Native Corporation, and private land physically located within the boundaries of the National Park System in Alaska.

Respondents stopped Petitioner from using a hovercraft in an Alaskan river within the boundaries of a federal conservation system unit. NPS regulations prohibit the use of hovercraft within the boundaries of the National Park System; however, Petitioner argues that the river belongs to Alaska which permits the use of hovercrafts on its waterways leaving the National Park System without regulatory authority. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents because of the river’s location, appurtenant to federal lands. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that ANILCA established numerous “Alaska-specific exceptions” to NPS regulations while drawing a distinction between “non-public” and “public” lands within a conservation system unit. On remand, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the ban holding that the United States had an implied reservation of water rights that rendered the river public land under ANILCA. Petitioner argues that reserved water rights only confer non-possessory use rights, not title, negating the reading of Alaskan waterways as public lands under ANILCA. Petitioner further notes that ANILCA’s preamble establishes an intent not to alter the authority of Alaska in its regulatory regime. Further, Petitioner argues that the reserved water rights doctrine serves the specific need to moderate uses of water feeding federal land, which does not provide a basis for banning the operation of hovercrafts within waterways where the United States lacks title. 

Advanced Search

Back to Top