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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DICKS. Section 116 would prohibit the National Park Service from carrying out boat inspection or safety checks on the Yukon River within the Yukon-Charley National Preserve in Alaska. This provision was put in at the request of Mr. Young from Alaska who is upset with the National Park Service law enforcement at the preserve.

Last summer, two park rangers arrested a 70-year-old following an altercation during a boat safety inspection. This case is still before the courts, but it has stirred considerable local anger, especially when it was learned that the rangers had handcuffed but later released another local resident who refused to speak to rangers when approached.

Mr. Young of Alaska is a long-time friend of mine, and I am very hesitant to offer this amendment to strike his provision, but I think he has already won the case. The people there, the two rangers, have been reassigned to another duty, and the Park Service does have jurisdiction. I have discussed this with Chairman Young, and the Park Service always has jurisdiction within the national park.

Now, the gentleman from Alaska suggested that the Coast Guard had jurisdiction or the State had jurisdiction, but we have checked this carefully. The Park Service has jurisdiction within the national preserve to look at safety on the river. I think it is wrong to prohibit a safety inspection for people whose lives are at risk up there.

I have been to Alaska many times. These rivers can be very dangerous, and to make sure that the people who are being conveyed--this is a commercial endeavor--the people who are being moved around in these boats are safe, the people who own the boats are safe, whether it is commercial or not.

So I would like to yield to the ranking member and discuss this amendment and the importance of it.


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