January 20, 2016

Supreme Court justices consider National Park Service control of private and state property

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

It is ice cold under sunny skies in the nation’s capitol today, as Washington DC braces for yet another storm of the century this coming weekend. It is a fitting setting for the Supreme Court to hear oral argument today in the aptly-captioned Sturgeon v. Frost. In this case, the National Park Service is claiming the power to regulate non-federal water resources within the boundaries of National Parks located in Alaska, even though these water resources are owned by the state, by private parties, and by Alaskan Natives. Under this claimed power, the federal agency is banning Mr. Sturgeon from using a hovercraft on state-owned waterways, despite the fact that in the rugged wilds of Alaska, this is for many an essential means of transportation. Pacific Legal Foundation’s amicus brief in support of Mr. Sturgeon argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals got it wrong when it ruled that the Park Service can regulate any private property it wants to within the boundary of a National Park in Alaska. Allowing federal park rangers to regulate travel, and otherwise control the lives and property of property citizens who are not on National Park property, vitiates the federalism on which the United States is founded.

UPDATE: See our post-argument summary and video report here.

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