National Park Service to defend ban on hovercraft

FAIRBANKS — The National Park Service in Alaska plans to defend its ban on hovercrafts despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of an Anchorage moose hunter who was told not to use the device in a national preserve.

The high court overturned a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday, saying the lower court did not properly interpret federal law. The justices sent back to the 9th Circuit the decision on whether the state or federal government can regulate rivers in national preserves.

“We saw that the Supreme Court didn’t reject the conclusion of the 9th Circuit, it rejected the reasoning that they used in getting there,” National Park Service spokesman John Quinley told The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Wednesday.

The hovercraft ban was left intact, and rangers will enforce it, Quinley said.

“On the ground, operations haven’t changed much, and with yesterday’s ruling, the regulations that were in place on Monday continue in place,” he said.

Hunter John Sturgeon sued the Park Service after being ordered off the Nation River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for using his hovercraft in 2007.

The case focused on interpretations of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which established the preserve and other conservation areas in the state.

“The NPS looks forward to the opportunity to further clarify our understanding of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and how rivers were a substantial consideration when Congress established many of Alaska’s national parks,” the agency said in a written statement.

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