About 8,000 cases were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court this session, but Alaska’s John Sturgeon vs. Frost (U.S. Park Service case #17-949) was accepted — for the second time. The announcement came this morning.
The high court’s first ruling in 2016 was narrow, but in Sturgeon’s favor. It sent key questions back to the Ninth Circuit, which doubled down in October, 2017 on its ruling against state sovereignty and aspects of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The 9th Circuit judges ruled the federal government has authority over rivers within the national parks under a broad scope of water reservation provisions in federal law.
The Supreme Court accepts fewer than 1 percent of the cases brought to it. But after the court took his case the first time in 2016, Sturgeon felt somewhat more confident it would accept his case again, if only because the 9th Circuit simply ignored the Supreme Court’s directions for review.
“Going to the Supreme Court is a miracle,” said Sturgeon. “And of the 8,000 petitions this term, they took 20. It means that hopefully the federal government will understand the state sovereignty issues: The State of Alaska owns the rivers and navigable waters, and it gets to manage them, under the provisions of ANILCA. Above all, this is about state sovereignty.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Sturgeon thinks the case will be heard this summer, and that the justices will answer the question of whether Section 103c of ANILCA says the federal government cannot control navigable waters and has no control over inholdings on national parks and preserves under ANILCA.