ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Two men convicted of running unlicensed tour boats are asking an appellate court to decide how much authority the federal government should have over lakes in a national park.
Carl Brown of Ranier and Harold Armstrong of Fort Frances, Ontario, were convicted by a magistrate judge in 1996 of running the unlicensed tours in Voyageurs National Park. The men hope the panel will overturn their convictions and establish a precedent restricting federal authority over the lakes.
``No one is more committed, no one is more interested in that park than the state of Minnesota,'' said Brown's attorney, William Perry Pendley, during oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Minnesota officials are supporting the men in hopes of confirming the state's jurisdiction over a series of waterways that have been in dispute for decades.
The state donated more than 35,000 acres of land along the Canadian border to the National Park Service in 1975. Since then, the Park Service has unofficially regulated the adjacent waters of Rainy Lake and other waterways.
Bill Szotkowski, an attorney with the Minnesota attorney general's office, said there is no question that land for Voyageurs was ceded to the federal government, but the water and the land under it was not and should remain under state jurisdiction.
The state maintains it never gave up its authority over the waterways -- located about 60 miles north of Hibbing -- while the Park Service says the state gave up its right when it donated the land.
The National Park Service only allows approved concessionaires to bring visitors into park waters and attractions. The Park Service says a 1970 statute gives them the authority over water in the park.
Clifford Wardlaw of the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis said Congress has given the Park Service the authority to regulate the area. ``We are trying to make sure that the park is kept and operated according to the purposes for which it was established,'' Wardlaw said.
The two tour guides argue that treaties between the United States and Canada make Rainy and Namakan lakes open waters.
Christian Girouard, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Canada, said the government may file a court brief in support of the two men.
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