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Alaska men appeal rulings on state land fight

Posted: December 20, 2013 - 1:03am

FAIRBANKS — Two Alaska men who have feuded with the federal government over its authority to enforce federal regulations state-owned land in national parks have filed appeals after losing in district court.

Jim Wilde and John Sturgeon filed appeals with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The state of Alaska, which had intervened in Sturgeon’s case, also is appealing the decision in that case, after a U.S. District Court judge ruled the federal government has the authority to enforce federal regulations on state-owned land in national parks and preserves.

All those appealing say that interpretation is contrary to a section of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conversation Act of 1980, which they interpret was meant to protect Alaskans from the type of federal overreach they say was displayed in their cases.

Jim Wilde, of Central, was arrested by park rangers in 2010 after failing to stop his boat for a safety inspection on the Yukon River within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. He was pursued by rangers, one of whom drew a pistol and then a shotgun to get Wilde to pull over. After Wilde complied, a scuffle ensued and Wilde was arrested.

He was convicted of interfering with a government agent engaged in an official duty, violating a lawful order by a park ranger and operating an unregistered boat. He was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. A disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.

Sturgeon, of Anchorage, sued in 2011 after being ordered to leave the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for using a hovercraft to hunt moose on the Nation River several years earlier.

Sturgeon said he stopped on a gravel bar to work on his hovercraft when three armed rangers stopped, told him it was illegal to operate the boat in the preserve and ordered him to leave. Sturgeon had been using hovercraft there since 1990.

The state joined the lawsuit in December 2011 after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was denied a Park Service permit to use a helicopter to conduct salmon research on state land on the Alagnak River in Katmai National Preserve.

The appeals will focus on the judges’ interpretation of language in the 1980 law. Lawyers expect the three cases to be combined into one since the situations are similar.

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