Typically, the Supreme Court of the United States rules on some of the most important issues facing our nation. It has ruled on influential constitutional issues like privacy rights, segregation, same-sex marriage, healthcare reform, and much more. It may soon rule on a new issue: moose hunting by hovercraft.
The Issue at Hand
One John Sturgeon was an avid and apparently innovative hunter. He had been issued a tag to hunt moose in Alaska, which was extremely exciting. Mr. Sturgeon just had one small issue, to hunt a moose, you actually have to find a moose! He was hunting in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, which is rugged and expansive. He wanted to find an easy way to get around the large preserve. He decided to use a hovercraft. Unfortunately for Mr. Sturgeon, hovercrafts are banned on all federal-owned land and water.
Why Does the Supreme Court Care?
On October 2, the Supreme Court granted cert to the moose/hovercraft case which had been ruled upon by a state trial judge, and the Ninth Circuit court of appeals. What had seemed like a minor, relatively silly issue actually had some rather major importance. There are two parties at play here, the National Parks System and local state government. The violation, which had occurred on land set aside by the federal government, had been ruled upon by a body which did not have jurisdiction over that land.
Divisions of Power
This is an issue that comes up from time to time. Power in the United States is divided between state, local, and federal agencies. Sometimes these divisions blur, and it can become difficult to determine who has jurisdiction where. Mistakes made can have massive impacts, and even cause entire cases to be thrown out. Sometimes, moose hunting by hovercraft is more important than it at first appears.