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Tim Pearce

The 9th Circuit Court ruled that an Alaskan hunter does not have the right to travel through Alaska’s wilderness in a hovercraft, despite state law saying otherwise.

The most recent ruling against hunter John Sturgeon comes after the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case and decided to send the decision back down to the 9th Circuit.

“This is a hard punch in the gut. Eighteen months ago, the nation’s highest court rejected what it called the Ninth Circuit’s ‘topsy-turvy approach’ to Mr. Sturgeon’s case, sending it back for further proceedings,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement. “Unfazed, the same judge on the Ninth Circuit has announced a follow-on decision that again denies Mr. Sturgeon his rights.”

Sturgeon’s case began in 2007 when three National Park Service (NPS) rangers approached him next to his broken down hovercraft on a gravel bank in the middle of a river. The rangers told him he would not be allowed to move his hovercraft, even if he fixed it, because it was a banned vehicle in national parks, according to The Washington Post.

Sturgeon, who had been using the hovercraft to reach his favorite hunting spots for decades, disputed the claim that he was driving on federally owned land. Rivers are owned and controlled by the state under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, according to court documents.

The NPS rangers and the Ninth Circuit said that rivers flowing through federal land fell under the authority of the federal government, despite the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing with Sturgeon in at least one point of his case, namely, that Alaska is regulated differently under the federal government than most states. Federal land in Alaska is subject to many exceptions that do not exist outside the state.

“All those Alaska-specific provisions reflect the simple truth that Alaska is often the exception, not the rule,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Supreme Court’s decision.

The 9th Circuit court ruling is unpopular with both Alaskan lawmakers and Alaskans themselves, WaPo reports.

“This is an affront to all Alaskans, and yet another example of a court that is deeply out of touch with both the law and the people,” Murkowski said. “This decision cannot be allowed to stand.”

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