STATE OF ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF V. FEDERAL SUBSISTENCE BOARD, ET AL, No. 22-35097 (9th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game brought this action against the Board and several federal officials, alleging that the changes violated the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”) and the Administrative Procedure Act. Before the district court issued its decision, the Kake Hunt ended, and the district court deemed the challenge to it moot. And while this appeal was pending, the partial Unit 13 closure expired.
The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court’s decision in an action challenging the Federal Subsistence Board’s approval in 2020 of two short-term changes to hunting practices on federal public lands in Alaska, specifically (1) the Board’s opening of an emergency hunt for Intervenor, the Organized Village of Kake; and (2) the Board’s partial temporary closure of public lands in game management Unit 13 to nonsubsistence users.
The panel first held that Alaska’s claim that the Board violated ANILCA by opening the 60-day emergency Kake hunt without statutory authority was not moot because it fit within the mootness exception of being capable of repetition yet evading review. Alaska’s claim that ANICLA did not authorize the federal government to open emergency hunting seasons raised a question of first impression in this circuit and required resolution of complicated issues of statutory interpretation. Noting that the district court had not reached the merits, the panel remanded this claim to the district court. With regard to Alaska’s partial Unit 13 closure claim, the panel vacated the part of the district court’s order that addressed the claim.