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Alaska Wildlife Alliance v. Jensen

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20910
Nos. Nnos. 95-35151, -35188, 108 F.3d 1065/(9th Cir., 03/06/1997)

The court holds that the National Park System Organic Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) prohibit commercial fishing in designated wilderness areas of Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park, but not in the park's nonwilderness areas. The court first holds that the environmental groups have standing to challenge policies that allow commercial fishing in nonwilderness areas. Individual group members would have standing to sue because their affidavits demonstrate aesthetic and recreational harm. Further, the groups offer sufficient proof that those injuries are traceable to commercial fishing, and a finding that commercial fishing is prohibited would redress plaintiffs' claimed injuries. The court next holds that the ANILCA prohibits commercial fishing in the park's wilderness areas. Although in certain circumstances the Wilderness Act allows motorboats in wilderness areas, the fishermen's use of motorboats is not at issue; it is fishing for profit that the Wilderness Act prohibits. The plain language of the ANILCA does not support the fishermen's assertion that the Act requires that all existing uses of park resources be allowed to continue. The court then holds that the National Park Service's (NPS') interpretation of the ANILCA and the Organic Act as allowing commercial fishing in nonwilderness areas is reasonable. The court rejects plaintiffs' assertion that the Secretary of the Interior's failure to prevent commercial fishing in the park derogates the Organic Act's purpose of conservation and therefore violates an express statutory directive. In the absence of a specific congressional statement that commercial fishing derogates the Organic Act's goals, there is no reason to conclude that the Secretary's failure to prohibit commercial fishing violates the Organic Act. The court next holds that a provision of the ANILCA that directs the Secretary to permit commercial fishing in certain areas of the park implies that the NPS may prohibit fishing elsewhere, not that commercial fishing is statutorily prohibited elsewhere. Further, other indicia of congressional intent support the NPS' interpretations of the Organic Act and the ANILCA, and because the NPS' interpretation is reasonable, the court must defer to it.

[Briefs and pleadings in this litigation are digested at ELR BRIEFS & PLEADS. 66454.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Thomas E. Meacham
9500 Prospect Dr., Anchorage AK 99516
(907) 346-1077

Counsel for Defendants
Robert L. Klarquist
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: WRIGHT, SCHROEDER and KLEINFELD, Circuit Judges.