In 2007, John Sturgeon was detained by National Park rangers as he traveled in a hovercraft on the Nation River across the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The park rangers said Sturgeon could not use the amphibious craft. Sturgeon argued the state, not the U.S. park service, had jurisdiction over the river, the former of which allows hovercrafts.
The state of Alaska supported Sturgeon, citing a 1980 decision by Congress that limited Park Service jurisdiction in the state, called the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Sturgeon’s lawyers argued the law aimed to balance protection of public lands with the needs of Alaskans, including certain activities “of particular importance to Alaskans.”
In handing Sturgeon a victory, the Supreme Court said the Park Service cannot prevent him from using his hovercraft to reach the moose-hunting grounds. Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan agreed the river is not public land, meaning “Sturgeon can again rev up his hovercraft in search of moose.”