S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Bob Keiter was quoted in Outside Magazine in a story titled, “Who Controls Alaska’s Waterways.”
Last month, after years of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Sturgeon’s case. Sturgeon v. Masica will determine whether and how the Department of the Interior will be able to regulate waterways on the millions of acres of federal land governed by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, or ANILCA. ANILCA, passed during the Carter administration, protected 104 million acres of new or expanded national parks, refuges, and other federal land in Alaska, with the provision that state, tribal, and private inholdings within the areas would not be subject to certain federal regulation. Who controls the waterways within these lands, however, is contested.
“It is something of a puzzle to me why the Supreme Court decided to [review this case]”, says Bob Keiter, a law professor and public lands expert at the University of Utah. The high court, he says, usually takes cases that lower courts are split over, or which have high stakes and national implications. None of those conditions really apply here. Instead, they may have agreed to hear arguments because ANILCA deals with such a huge amount of federal land.