Frankly, the Oregon militia boys are getting kind of boring. The authorities’ decision to avoid engaging with their antics is looking prescient: Without an enemy, the men occupying a federal wildlife reserve have been reduced from rifle-toting badasses to rifle-toting dildo whiners. So where to turn for your anti-federal government kicks now? Enter John Sturgeon, Alaska’s favorite hovercrafting moose hunter.
After national park rangers stopped Sturgeon in the remote Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve for flouting a national parks ban on the air-cushion boats known as hovercraft, he filed a lawsuit which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. As the Washington Post notes, his case has become a cause célèbre for those who believe that the U.S. is engaged in tyranny against the citizens of its western states. Witness the following YouTube tribute video, which pairs vintage photos of Sturgeon hunting with a solemn children’s choir soundtrack. “This is a chance for us to tell the feds that we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore,” says the narrator after asking viewers to donate money to Sturgeon’s cause.
Sturgeon encountered the feds after his hovercraft, which he’d been using for years to navigate the preserve’s rocky and shallow rivers during hunts, broke down. Citing an umbrella ban on hovercraft in national parks, the officers who responded to the scene told him not to continue using his boat, even if he got it working again.
What seems like a fairly cut-and-dry case is complicated by laws that regulate the federal government’s relationship with Alaska specifically. Sixty percent or more of the state’s land is federally protected, but the law gives ownership to some of the land within national park borders to the state, private interests, and corporations owned by Native Alaskans. Sturgeon was riding in a national park, but not on waters actually owned by the National Park Service. The question is whether the National Park Service is allowed to regulate these lands in the same ways it would lands it actually owns. The government says yes; Sturgeon says no. So far, the courts have decided with the government.
Whatever happens, Sturgeon will likely have the support of many of the same people who cheered on the Oregon militiamen. Speaking about the surprise backing he’s gotten—which has included six-figure donations and amicus briefs filed by Alaska’s U.S. senators—he told the Post, “This lawsuit has passed me by and has taken on a life of its own.”