Legislation would bar regulations on Alaskan waterway

A proposed federal spending bill includes language that prohibits the National Park Service from stopping boaters in Alaska's Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

“None of the funds made available by this act may be used by the Secretary of the Interior to implement or enforce regulations concerning boating within Yukon-Charley National Preserve, including waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” the bill states.

The provision would prohibit the National Park Service from enforcing boat safety rules within the 2.5-million-acre Yukon-Charley National Preserve east of Fairbanks. Alaska’s congressional delegation inserted the language in reaction to the arrest of a 71-year-old man from Central, Jim Wilde, in September 2010 by park rangers, the Daily News-Miner newspaper reported.

Wilde refused to allow rangers to board his boat after they flagged him down on the Yukon River inside the preserve. Wilde cursed out the rangers and continued upriver, only to be chased down by the two rangers, one of whom first drew a pistol and then a shotgun. After Wilde pulled over to the riverbank, a brief scuffle ended when rangers wrestled Wilde to the ground and handcuffed and arrested him.

He was jailed for three days and eventually convicted of not following orders and running an unregistered boat, according to the newspaper.

Wilde’s arrest created a public outcry from many Alaskans, including lawmakers, who thought the Park Service’s action violated the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. They said the act protects Alaskans’ right to travel on state-owned navigable waterways.

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