The Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week in favor of Alaskan John Sturgeon, who waged a 12-year battle against the National Park Service over its ban on hovercraft in park preserves. As a result of the decision, Sturgeon can once again "rev up his hovercraft in search of moose" on the Nation River in the Yukon Charley Preserve. This is the second time this fight has come before the Supreme Court. On one hand, it involves important legal issues affecting public lands, federalism, and water rights. But on the other, it is a narrow case over the special circumstances of federal lands in Alaska.
As a quick recap, Sturgeon was navigating the Nation River on his hovercraft in 2007 when Park Service officials stopped him and told him that his craft was not allowed under nationwide regulations banning hovercraft in the National Park System. Sturgeon filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the nationwide ban did not apply in Alaska, given the unique language of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the ban, not once but twice.
This time, the Supreme Court took certiorari on two issues:
First, does "the Nation River qualif[y] as 'public land' for purposes of ANILCA"? Second, "even ...