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In March 2019, the United States Supreme Court decided Sturgeon v. Frost , unanimously holding navigable waters within Alaska’s national parks are exempt from the Park Service’s normal regulatory authority. The result of the Court’s holding has stifled federal law enforcement in Alaska. An overly cautious interpretation of Sturgeon could jeopardize federal enforcement in its entirety on the thousands of miles of navigable rivers in Alaska. However, considered in the broader context of the history of Alaskan subsistence rights and corresponding jurisprudence, there is ample legal footing in the Sturgeon opinion to provide federal law enforcement personnel with authority to enforce subsistence fishing regulations, as opposed to the navigation-based hovercraft regulation at issue in Sturgeon . Should a future challenge arise, the Supreme Court would likely uphold the Department of Interior’s authority to enforce federal subsistence fishing regulations on navigable waterways in Alaska.
Elliot Louthen, Subsistence & Sturgeon: Federal Enforcement on Alaska’s Rivers, 36 Alaska Law Review 179-192 (2019)
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/alr/vol36/iss2/4