Alaska Congressional Delegation Welcomes Supreme Court’s Unanimous Decision on Sturgeon Case

Rejects Federal Overreach, Supports Subsistence Rights

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, today welcomed a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sturgeon v Frost, that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) explicitly barred the National Park Service from prohibiting John Sturgeon from operating his hovercraft to hunt moose along the Nation River in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve in Alaska. In an opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the court upheld the promises made to Alaskans in ANILCA that Park Service does not have expansive rights over state and Native lands.

“This is a great decision – and an outstanding victory – for all Alaskans. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of John Sturgeon, holding that the National Park Service cannot regulate hovercraft use on the Nation River, and did not disturb the Katie John decisions. The Court upheld what we know – that Alaska is the exception, a unique place with unique laws where federal agencies do not have absolute, unilateral control over state and Native lands and waters,” Senator Murkowski said. “I congratulate Mr. Sturgeon, thank him and all who supported him for their perseverance during the years of legal battle that led to this decision, and wish him happy hunting this September.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a historic win for John Sturgeon and for all Alaskans,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “The decision restores the promises made to Alaskans in the Statehood Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. These are promises that federal agencies and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—which has once again proven out of touch with rural states like Alaska—have been eroding. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision clearly establishes what the State of Alaska and John Sturgeon have been saying all along: Alaska is unique, and ANILCA was drafted to reflect our uniqueness—namely that the Park Service does not replace local control of state, Alaska Native corporation, and private property within federal conservation units. We can’t thank John Sturgeon enough for bringing his case to the Supreme Court. This case may be portrayed as one small step for a moose hunter, but it’s truly one giant leap for the State of Alaska.”

“Put simply, it is nothing short of a great day for the people of Alaska. There are no better stewards of Alaska’s lands and waters than Alaskans, and this unanimous decision by the Supreme Court pushes back against what my constituents have always known as heavy-handed government overreach by the National Park Service,” said Congressman Don Young. “During its inception, Senator Ted Stevens and I worked hard to make ANILCA fair to sportsmen, Native communities, and energy developers. Our legislation was intentionally written so that the Alaskan people wouldn’t need to ask the Federal government for permission to use the lands they had been stewards of for generations. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court finally settles a longstanding question about the Federal government’s role in implementing ANILCA, secures Alaskan sovereignty, and keeps bureaucratic hands off our lands. I am pleased that this decision also does not interfere with the subsistence rights long fought for by Katie John and other dedicated Alaskan leaders. I am grateful to Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan for their partnership in this fight, and I thank the Supreme Court for reaching a decision that I know would make Senator Stevens proud. I congratulate John Sturgeon on his well-fought victory and hope he wastes no time in revving up his hovercraft.”

Background: In November, 2015, the Alaska Congressional Delegation submitted an amicus brief in support of John Sturgeon the first time the Supreme Court heard his case.