January 20, 2016
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE NINTH CIRCUIT
L.Ed.2d 111] The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation
Act (ANILCA) set aside 104 [136 S.Ct. 1062] million acres of
land in Alaska for preservation purposes. Under ANILCA, those
lands were placed into " conservation system
units," which were defined to include " any unit in
Alaska of the National Park System, National Wildlife Refuge
System, National Wild and Scenic Rivers [194 L.Ed.2d 112]
Systems, National Trails System, National Wilderness
Preservation System, or a National Forest Monument." 16
U.S.C. § 3102(4). In addition to federal land, over 18
million acres of state, Native Corporation, and private land
were also included within the boundaries of those
conservation system units.
2007, John Sturgeon was piloting his hovercraft over a
stretch of the Nation River that flows through the
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a conservation system
unit in Alaska that is managed by the National Park Service.
Alaska law permits the use of hovercraft. National Park
Service regulations do not. See 36 CFR § 2.17(e). Park
Service rangers approached Sturgeon, informing him that
hovercraft were prohibited within the preserve under Park
Service regulations. Sturgeon protested that Park Service
regulations did not apply because the river was owned by the
State of Alaska. The rangers ordered Sturgeon to remove his
hovercraft from the preserve, and he complied. Sturgeon later
filed suit against the Park Service in the United States
District Court for the District of Alaska, seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief permitting him to operate
his hovercraft within the boundaries of the Yukon-Charley.
Alaska intervened in support of Sturgeon.
Secretary of the Interior has authority to " prescribe
regulations" concerning " boating and other
activities on or relating to water located within System
units." 54 U.S.C. § 100751(b). The Park
Service's hovercraft regulation was adopted pursuant to
Section 100751(b). The hovercraft ban is not limited to
Alaska, but instead has effect in federally managed
preservation areas across the country. Section 103(c) of
ANILCA, in contrast, addresses the scope of the Park
Service's authority over lands within the boundaries of
conservation system units in Alaska. The first sentence of
Section 103(c) specifies the property included as a portion
of those units. It states: " Only those lands within the
boundaries of any conservation system unit which are public
lands (as such term is defined in this Act) shall be deemed
to be included as a portion of such unit." 16 U.S.C.
§ 3103(c). ANILCA defines the word " land" to
include " lands, waters, and interests therein,"
and the term " public lands" to include lands to
which the United States has " title," with certain
exceptions. § 3102.
second sentence of Section 103(c) concerns the Park
Service's authority to regulate " non-public"
lands in Alaska, which include state, Native Corporation, and
private property. It provides: " No lands which, before,
on, or after December 2, 1980, are conveyed to the State, to
any Native Corporation, or to any private party shall be
subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands
within such units." § 3103(c). The third sentence
of Section 103(c) explains how new lands become part of
conservation system units: " If the State, a Native
Corporation, or other owner desires to convey any such lands,
the Secretary may acquire such lands in accordance with
applicable law (including this Act), and any such lands shall
become part of the unit, and be administered
Section 103(c) of ANILCA, the District Court granted summary
[136 S.Ct. 1063] judgment to the Park Service, and the Ninth
Circuit affirmed in pertinent part. According to the [194
L.Ed.2d 113] Ninth Circuit, because the hovercraft regulation
" applies to all federal-owned lands and waters
administered by [the Park Service] nationwide, as well as all
navigable waters lying within national parks," the
hovercraft ban does not apply " solely" within
conservation system units in Alaska. 768 F.3d 1066, 1077. The
Ninth Circuit concluded that the Park Service therefore has
authority to enforce its hovercraft regulation on the Nation
River. The Ninth Circuit did not address whether the Nation
River counts as " public land" for purposes of
Ninth Circuit's interpretation of Section 103(c) is
inconsistent with both the text and context of ANILCA. Pp.
The Ninth Circuit's interpretation of Section 103(c)
violates " a fundamental canon of statutory
construction that the words of a statute must be read in
their context and with a view to their place in the overall
statutory scheme," Roberts v. Sea-Land
Services, Inc., 566 U.S. ___, ___, 132 S.Ct. 1350, 182
L.Ed.2d 341. ANILCA repeatedly recognizes that Alaska is
different, and ANILCA itself accordingly carves out
numerous Alaska-specific exceptions to the Park
Service's general authority over federally managed
preservation areas. Those Alaska-specific provisions
reflect the simple truth that Alaska is often the
exception, not the rule. Yet the reading below would
prevent the Park Service from recognizing Alaska's
unique conditions. Under that reading, the Park Service
could regulate " non-public" lands in Alaska only
through rules applicable outside Alaska as well. The Court
concludes that, whatever the reach of the Park
Service's authority under ANILCA, Section 103(c) did
not adopt such a " topsy-turvy" approach. Pp.
Moreover, it is clear that Section 103(c) draws a
distinction between " public" and "
non-public" lands within the boundaries of
conservation system units in Alaska. And yet, according to
the court below, if the Park Service wanted to
differentiate between that " public" and "
non-public" land in an Alaska-specific way, it would
have to regulate the " non-public" land pursuant
to rules applicable outside Alaska, and the "
public" land pursuant to Alaska-specific provisions.
Assuming the Park Service has authority over "
non-public" land in Alaska (an issue the Court does
not decide), the Court concludes that this is an
implausible reading of the statute. The Court therefore
rejects the interpretation of Section 103(c) adopted by the
court below. Pp. 14-15.
The Court does not reach the remainder of the parties'
arguments. In particular, it does not decide whether the
Nation River qualifies as " public land" for
purposes of ANILCA. It also does not decide whether the
Park Service has authority under Section 100751(b) to
regulate Sturgeon's activities on the Nation River,
even if the river is not " public" land, or
whether--as Sturgeon argues--any such authority is limited
by ANILCA. Finally, the Court does not consider whether the
Park Service has authority under ANILCA over both "
public" and " non-public" lands within the
boundaries of conservation system units in Alaska, to the
extent a regulation is written to apply specifically to
both types of land. The Court [194 L.Ed.2d 114] leaves
those arguments to the lower courts for consideration as
necessary. Pp. 15-16.
768 F.3d 1066, vacated and remanded.
T. Findley argued the cause for petitioner.
Botstein argued the cause for the United States, as amicus
curiae, by special leave of court.
P. Kovner argued the cause for respondent.
S.Ct. 1064] ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE
almost 40 years, John Sturgeon has hunted moose along the
Nation River in Alaska. Because parts of the river are
shallow and difficult to navigate, Sturgeon travels by
hovercraft, an amphibious vehicle capable of gliding over
land and water. To reach his preferred hunting grounds,
Sturgeon must pilot his hovercraft over a stretch of the
Nation River that flows through the Yukon-Charley Rivers
National Preserve, a 1.7 million acre federal preservation
area managed by the National Park Service. 16 U.S.C. §
law permits the use of hovercraft. National Park Service
regulations do not. See 36 CFR § 2.17(e) (2015). After
Park Service rangers informed Sturgeon that he was prohibited
from using his hovercraft within the boundaries of the
preserve, Sturgeon filed suit, seeking declaratory and
injunctive relief. He argues that the Nation River is owned
by the State, and that the Alaska National Interest Lands
Conservation Act (ANILCA) prohibits the Park Service from
enforcing its regulations on state-owned land in Alaska. The
Park Service disagrees, contending that it has authority to
regulate waters flowing through federally managed
preservation areas. The District Court and the Court of
Appeals ruled in favor of the Park Service. We granted
1867, Secretary of State William Seward, serving under
President Andrew Johnson, negotiated a treaty to purchase
Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Treaty Concerning the
Cession of the Russian Possessions in North America, Mar. 30,
1867, 15 Stat. 539. In a single stroke, the United States
gained 365 million acres of land--an area more than twice the
size of Texas. Despite the bargain price of two cents an
acre, however, the purchase was mocked by contemporaries as
" Seward's Folly" and President Johnson's
" Polar Bear Garden." See C. Naske & H.
Slotnick, Alaska: A History 92-94 (2011) (Naske &
Slotnick); S. Rep. No. 1163, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., 2 (1957).
monikers didn't stick. In 1898, the " Three Lucky
Swedes" --Jafet Lindeberg, Eric Lindblom, and Jon
Brynteson--struck gold in Nome, Alaska. As word of their
discovery spread, thousands traveled to Alaska to try their
hand at mining. Once the gold rush subsided, settlers turned
to other types of mining, fishing, and trapping, fueling an
emerging export economy. See Naske & ...