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Yukon case could set precedent for future federal cases

by Sue Deyoe ~ April 11th, 2011

A trial in federal court in Fairbanks last week concerning an arrest in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve a may set a precedent for other national park and preserve cases in Alaska.

71 year old Jim Wilde, his wife and a friend, were power-boating up the Yukon River from Circle last September on a moose hunting trip.  They were approached by National Park Service rangers in another boat.  The rangers said they wanted to conduct a routine boat safety check.

Rangers testified Wilde took off upriver, swerving toward the park service boat when they pursued him, and only headed for shore when rangers pointed a shotgun at him.  Wilde claims he was concerned about grounding his heavily loaded boat.  The encounter ended with a scuffle on the river bank.  Rangers say Wilde looked like he was ready to fight.  Wilde says he was threatened with a tazer.  Wilde ended up handcuffed and an arrest made.

The state has intervened in the case.  They say the state owns the land underlying the river and contests the feds don’t have the authority to perform law enforcement on the river.  The defense asked for the case to be dismissed, but a federal magistrate denied it, ruling the park service has authority on waters INSIDE conservation units.  Wilde’s attorney says they will appeal if his client is found guilty.

The judge is scheduled to issue a decision by Mid May.

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