Area, 656,424 sq mi (1,700,135 sq km), including 86,051 sq mi (222,871 sq km) of water surface. Pop. (2000) 628,932, a 14% increase since the 1990 census. Capital, Juneau. Largest city, Anchorage. Statehood, Jan. 3, 1959 (49th state). Highest pt., Mt. McKinley, 20,320 ft (6,198 m); lowest pt., sea level. Motto, North to the Future. State bird, willow ptarmigan. State flower, forget-me-not. State tree, Sitka spruce. Abbr., AK
Nearly one fifth the size of the rest of the United States, Alaska is, at the tip of the Seward Peninsula in the northwest, only a few miles from the Russian Far East; the two are separated by the narrow Bering Strait. The Seward Peninsula, chiefly tundra covered, is sparsely inhabited. The Bering Strait widens in the north to the Chukchi Sea, which slices into Alaska with Kotzebue Sound; in the south the strait widens to the Bering Sea, which cuts into Alaska with Norton Sound and Bristol Bay.
Toward the south the state again extends toward Russia in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands, reaching a total of 1,200 mi (1,931 km) toward the Komandorski Islands; together they divide the Bering Sea from the Pacific. The Aleutian Range, which is the spine of the Alaska Peninsula, is continued in the grass-covered, treeless Aleutian Islands; the climate there is unremittingly harsh—foggy, damp, and cold in the winter and subject to violent winds (williwaws). Once traversed by Russian fur traders hunting sea otters, the Aleutians are now chiefly of strategic importance. They contain several active volcanoes.
The southern coast of Alaska is deeply indented by two inlets of the wide Gulf of Alaska, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound; the Kenai Peninsula between them extends southwest toward Kodiak Island. The narrow Panhandle dips southeast along the coast from the Gulf of Alaska, cutting into British Columbia. It consists of the offshore islands of the Alexander Archipelago and the narrow coast, which rises steeply to the peaks of the Coast Range and the Saint Elias Mts. Winters in the Panhandle are relatively mild, with heavy rainfall and, except on the upper slopes of the mountains, comparatively little snow.
The interior of Alaska, on the other hand, has very cold winters and short, hot summers. In Arctic Alaska, north of the Brooks Range, the temperature in winter reaches -10°F; to -40°F; (-23.3°C; to -40°C;). The land there is mostly barren, cut by many short rivers and one long one, the Colville. Alaska's major river is the Yukon, which crosses the state from east to west for 1,200 mi (1,931 km), from the Canadian border to the Bering Sea. The northernmost reach of Alaska is Point Barrow.
Alaska's climate and terrain (rough coast and high mountain ranges) divide it into relatively isolated regions, and transportation relies heavily on costly airlines. The Panhandle is the most populous region; Juneau, the state's capital and third largest city, is there. The Panhandle's connection with Seattle is by ships, which ply the Inside Passage between the coast and the offshore islands. In S central Alaska, Anchorage, the state's largest city, is the center for the Alaskan RR and for airways; it is also connected with the Alaska Highway. On the Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound, Nome, founded when gold was discovered (1898) in the sands of local beaches, is now a small, isolated settlement. Southern ports including Seward, Anchorage, and Valdez are linked by highway with Fairbanks, the state's second largest (and largest interior) city. Cordova and Kodiak depend upon the ocean lanes. On the North Slope, the entire Arctic coast is icebound most of the year, and the ground remains permanently frozen.
The state abounds in natural wonders. In the Panhandle, the scenic beauty of the mountains and the rugged fjord-indented coast are augmented by such attractions as the Malaspina glacier and the acres of blue ice in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In the Alaska Range of S central Alaska stands the highest point in North America, Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Denali National Park and Preserve. The Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands have numerous volcanoes; Katmai National Park and Preserve contains the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, scene of a volcanic eruption in 1912.
Alaska has very little agriculture, ranking last in the nation in number of farms and value of farm products. The state's best arable land is in its S central region, in the Matanuska Valley N of Anchorage and the Tanana Valley (around Fairbanks). The state's most valuable farm commodities are greenhouse and dairy products and potatoes.
Alaska leads the nation in the value of its commercial fishing catch—chiefly salmon, crab, shrimp, halibut, herring, and cod. Anchorage and Dutch Harbor are major fishing ports, and the freezing and canning of fish dominates the food-processing industry, the state's largest manufacturing enterprise. Lumbering and related industries are of great importance, although disputes over logging in the state's great national forests are ongoing. Mining, principally of petroleum and natural gas, is the state's most valuable industry. Gold, which led to settlement at the end of the 19th cent., is no longer mined in quantity. Fur-trapping, Alaska's oldest industry, endures; pelts are obtained from a great variety of animals. The Pribilof Islands are especially noted as a source of sealskins (the seals there are owned by the U.S. government, and their use is carefully regulated).
In 1968 vast reserves of oil and natural gas were discovered on the Alaska North Slope near Prudhoe Bay. The petroleum reservoir was determined to be twice the size of any other field in North America. The 800-mi (1,287-km) Trans-Alaska pipeline from the North Slope to the ice-free port of Valdez opened in 1977, after bitter opposition from environmentalists, and oil began to dominate the state economy. The Alaska Permanent Fund, created in 1977, receives 25% of Alaska's oil royalty income. The fund is designed to provide the state with income after the oil reserves are depleted and has paid dividends to all residents.
Government—federal, state, and local—is Alaska's major source of employment. The state's strategic location has generated considerable defense activity since World War II, including the establishment of highways, airfields, and permanent military bases. Alaska's tourism increased dramatically with the help of improvements in transportation; it now follows only oil among the state's industries. The Inside Passage, Denali National Park, and the 1000-mi (1,600 km) Iditarod sled-dog race are major attractions.
Alaska operates under a constitution drawn up and ratified in 1956 (effective with statehood). Its executive branch is headed by a governor and a secretary of state, both elected (on the same ticket) for four-year terms. Alaska's bicameral legislature has a senate with 20 members and a house of representatives with 40 members. The state sends two senators and one representative to the U.S. Congress and has three electoral votes.
Democrats at first dominated state politics, but Republicans have gained gradual ascendance since 1966. A Democrat, Tony Knowles, was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998. The GOP recaptured the governorship in 2002 when Frank Murkowski was elected to the office. In 2006 Republican Sarah Palin was elected governor, defeating Murkowski in the primary and Knowles in the general election. She was the first woman to win the governorship. She resigned in 2009 and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, also a Republican.
Alaska's educational institutions include the Univ. of Alaska, with divisions at Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau; and Alaska Pacific Univ., at Anchorage.
The disastrous voyage of Vitus Bering and Aleksey Chirikov in 1741 began the march of Russian traders across Siberia. The survivors who returned with sea otter skins started a rush of fur hunters to the Aleutian Islands. Grigori Shelekhov in 1784 founded the first permanent settlement in Alaska on Kodiak Island and sent (1790) to Alaska the man who was to dominate the period of Russian influence there, Aleksandr Baranov. A monopoly was granted to the Russian American Company in 1799, and it was Baranov who directed its Alaskan activities. Baranov extended the Russian trade far down the west coast of North America and even, after several unsuccessful attempts, founded (1812) a settlement in N California.
Rivalry for the northwest coast was strong, and British and American trading vessels began to threaten the Russian monopoly. In 1821 the czar issued a ukase (imperial command) claiming the 51st parallel as the southern boundary of Alaska and warning foreign vessels not to trespass beyond it. British and American protests, the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine, and Russian embroilment elsewhere resulted (1824) in a negotiated settlement of the boundary at lat. 54°40'N (the present southern boundary of Alaska). Russian interests in Alaska gradually declined, and after the Crimean War, Russia sought to dispose of the territory altogether.Early Years as a U.S. Possession
In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $7,200,000. The U.S. purchase was accomplished solely through the determined efforts of Secretary of State William H. Seward, and for many years afterward the land was derisively called Seward's Folly or Seward's Icebox because of its supposed uselessness. Since Alaska appeared to offer no immediate financial return, it was neglected. The U.S. army officially controlled the area until 1876, when scandals caused the withdrawal of the troops. After a brief period, during which government was in the hands of customs officials, the U.S. navy was given charge (1879). Most of the territory was not even known, although the British (notably John Franklin and Capt. F. W. Beechey) had explored the coast of the Arctic Ocean, and the Hudson's Bay Company had explored the Yukon.
It was not until after the discovery of gold in the Juneau region in 1880 that Alaska was given a governor and a feeble local administration (under the Organic Act of 1884). Missionaries, who had come to the region in the late 1870s, exercised considerable influence. Most influential was Sheldon Jackson, best known for his introduction of reindeer to help the Alaska Eskimo (Inuit), impoverished by the wanton destruction of the fur seals. Sealing was the subject of a long international controversy (see Bering Sea Fur-Seal Controversy under Bering Sea), which was not ended until after gold had permanently transformed Alaska.The Gold Rush
Paradoxically, the first gold finds that tremendously influenced Alaska were in Canada. The Klondike strike of 1896 brought a stampede, mainly of Americans, and most of them came through Alaska. The big discoveries in Alaska itself followed—Nome in 1898-99, Fairbanks in 1902. The miners and prospectors (the sourdoughs) took over Alaska, and the era of the mining camps reached its height; a criminal code was belatedly applied in 1899.
The longstanding controversy concerning the boundary between the Alaska Panhandle and British Columbia was aggravated by the large number of miners traveling the Inside Passage to the gold fields. The matter was finally settled in 1903 by a six-man tribunal, composed of American, Canadian, and British representatives. The decision was generally favorable to the United States, and a period of rapid building and development began. Mining, requiring heavy financing, passed into the hands of Eastern capitalists, notably the monopolistic Alaska Syndicate. Opposition to these "interests" became the burning issue in Alaska and was catapulted into national politics; Gifford Pinchot and R. A. Ballinger were the chief antagonists, and this was a major issue on which Theodore Roosevelt split with President William Howard Taft.Territorial Status
Juneau officially replaced Sitka as capital in 1900, but it did not begin to function as such until 1906. In the same year Alaska was finally awarded a territorial representative in Congress. A new era began for Alaska when local government was established in 1912 and it became a U.S. territory. The building of the Alaska RR from Seward to Fairbanks was commenced with government funds in 1915. Already, however, gold mining was dying out, and Alaska receded into one of its quiet periods. The fishing industry, which had gradually advanced during the gold era, became the major enterprise.
Alaska enjoyed an economic boom during World War II. The Alaska Highway was built, supplying a weak but much-needed link with the United States. After Japanese troops occupied the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska, U.S. forces prepared for a counterattack. Attu was retaken in May, 1943, after intense fighting, and the Japanese evacuated Kiska in August after intensive U.S. bombardments. Dutch Harbor became a major key in the U.S. defense system. The growth of air travel after the war, and the permanent military bases established in Alaska resulted in tremendous growth; between 1950 and 1960 the population nearly doubled.Statehood to the Present
In 1958, Alaskans approved statehood by a 5 to 1 vote, and on Jan. 3, 1959, Alaska was officially admitted into the Union as a state, the first since Arizona in 1912. On Mar. 27, 1964, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America occurred in Alaska, taking approximately 114 lives and causing extensive property damage. Some cities were almost totally destroyed, and the fishing industry was especially hard hit, with the loss of fleets, docks, and canneries from the resulting tsunami. Reconstruction, with large-scale federal aid, was rapid. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (1971) gave roughly 44 million acres (17.8 million hectares; 10% of the state) and almost $1 billion to Alaskan native peoples in exchange for renunciation of all aboriginal claims to land in the state. In 1989 the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, releasing 11 million gallons of oil into the water in the worst oil spill in U.S. history and severely damaging the ecosystem. A jury in 1994 found Exxon Corp. (now ExxonMobil) and the ship's captain negligent, but the amount of punitive damages ($507.5 million) to be paid to some 33,000 commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs was ultimately fixed by a Supreme Court decision in 2008, which severely reduced the original award ($2.5 billion).
See C. C. Hulley, Alaska, Past and Present (3d ed. 1970); B. Keating, Alaska (2d ed. 1971); H. W. Clark, History of Alaska (1930, repr. 1972); B. Cooper, Alaska, the Last Frontier (1973); Federal Writers' Project, A Guide to Alaska, Last American Frontier (1940, repr. 1973); L. Thomas Jr., Alaska and the Yukon (1983); R. W. Pearson and D. F. Lynch, Alaska: A Geography; J. Strohmeyer, Extreme Conditions: Big Oil and the Transformation of Alaska (1993).
Alaska (Аляска Alyaska) is a state in the United States of America, in the northwest of the North American continent. As of 2007, the population was 683,478 with approximately 50% residing along the Anchorage metropolitan areas.
The area that became Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire after Congress concluded its resources could be vitally important to the nation's future growth. The United States completed the purchase on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million at 2 cents per acre, about 5 cents per hectare. When adjusted for inflation, the total sum paid equates to approximately $360 million in 2008 dollars.The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory on May 11, 1912 and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The name "Alaska" was already introduced in the Russian colonial time, when it was only used for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning "the mainland", or more literally, "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed. It is also known as Alyeska, the "great land", an Aleut word derived from the same root.
The state is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, Canada, to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west and the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at , more than twice as large as Texas, the next largest state. It is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries.
It is also larger than the combined area of the 23 smallest U.S. States and Districts: Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina
One scheme for describing the state's geography is by labeling the regions:
The northeast corner of Alaska is covered by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers . Much of the northwest is covered by the larger National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, which covers around . The Arctic is Alaska's most remote wilderness. A location in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska is miles from any town or village, the geographic point most remote from permanent habitation in the USA.
With its myriad islands, Alaska has nearly of tidal shoreline. The Aleutian Islands chain extends west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. Unimak Island, for example, is home to Mount Shishaldin which is a moderately active volcano that rises to above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.
One of North America's largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage — tidal differences can be more than . (Many sources say Turnagain has the second-greatest tides in North America, but several areas in Canada have larger tides.)
Alaska has more than 3 million lakes. Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover (mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands). Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice, covers some of land and of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon, Canada, covers alone.
The International Date Line jogs west of 180° to keep the whole state, and thus the entire continental United States, within the same legal day.
According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (350,000 km²), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 24.5%; another 10% is managed by 13 regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling less than 1%.
Alaska is administratively divided into "boroughs", as opposed to "counties" or "parishes." The function is the same, but whereas some states use a three-tiered system of decentralization—state/county/township—most of Alaska uses only two tiers—state/borough. Owing to the low population density, most of the land is located in the Unorganized Borough which, as the name implies, has no intermediate borough government of its own, but is administered directly by the state government. Currently (2000 census) 57.71% of Alaska's area has this status, with 13.05% of the population. For statistical purposes the United States Census Bureau divides this territory into census areas. Anchorage merged the city government with the Greater Anchorage Area Borough in 1971 to form the Municipality of Anchorage, containing the city proper and the bedroom communities of Eagle River, Chugiak, Peters Creek, Girdwood, Bird, and Indian. Fairbanks has a separate borough (the Fairbanks North Star Borough) and municipality (the City of Fairbanks).
The climate of Anchorage and south central Alaska is mild by Alaskan standards due to the region's proximity to the seacoast. While the area does not get nearly as much rain as southeast Alaska, it does get more snow, although days tend to be clearer. On average, Anchorage receives of precipitation a year, with around of snow, although there are areas in the south central which receive far more snow. It is a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc) due to its short, cool summers.
The climate of Western Alaska is determined in large part by the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. It is a subarctic oceanic climate in the southwest and a continental subarctic climate farther north. The temperature is somewhat moderate considering how far north the area is. This area has a tremendous amount of variety in precipitation. The northern side of the Seward Peninsula is technically a desert with less than of precipitation annually, while some locations between Dillingham and Bethel average around of precipitation.
The climate of the interior of Alaska is best described as extreme and is a good example of a true subarctic climate. Some of the hottest and coldest temperatures in Alaska occur around the area near Fairbanks. The summers can have temperatures reaching into the 90s°F (the low to mid 30s °C), while in the winter, the temperature can fall below −60 °F (-52 °C). Precipitation is sparse in the Interior, often less than a year, but what precipitation falls in the winter tends to stay the entire winter.
The highest and lowest recorded temperatures in Alaska are both in the Interior. The highest is 100 °F (38 °C) in Fort Yukon on June 27, 1915, tied with Pahala, Hawaii as the lowest high temperature in the United States. The lowest Alaska temperature is −80 °F (-62 °C) in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971, one degree above the lowest temperature recorded in North America (in Snag, Yukon, Canada).
The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is as expected for an area north of the Arctic Circle. It is an Arctic climate (Köppen ET) with long, very cold winters and short, cool summers. Even in July, the average low temperature is barely above freezing in Barrow, at 34 °F (2 °C). Precipitation is light in this part of Alaska, with many places averaging less than per year, mostly in the form of snow which stays on the ground almost the entire year.
The first European contact with Alaska occurred in the year 1741, when Vitus Bering led an expedition for the Russian Navy aboard the St. Peter. After his crew returned to Russia bearing sea otter pelts judged to be the finest fur in the world, small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of Siberia towards the Aleutian islands. The first permanent European settlement was founded in 1784, and the Russian-American Company carried out an expanded colonization program during the early to mid-1800s. Despite these efforts, the Russians never fully colonized Alaska, and the colony was never very profitable. William H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State, negotiated the Alaskan purchase in 1867 for $7.2 million.
During World War II, the Aleutian Islands Campaign focused on the three outer Aleutian Islands — Attu, Agattu and Kiska - that were invaded by Japanese troops and occupied between June 1942 and August 1943. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor became a significant base for the U.S. Army Air Corps and Navy submariners.
The U.S. Lend-Lease program involved flying American warplanes through Canada to Fairbanks and thence Nome; Russian pilots took possession of these aircraft, ferrying them to fight the German invasion of Russia. The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.
Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959.
The 1968 discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline led to an oil boom. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Prince William Sound, spilling between 11 and 35 million US gallons (42,000-130,000 m³) of crude oil over 1,100 miles (1,600 km) of coastline. Today, the battle between philosophies of development and conservation is seen in the contentious debate over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The vast sparsely populated regions of northern and western Alaska are primarily inhabited by Alaska Natives, who are also numerous in the southeast. Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other parts of south-central and southeast Alaska have many whites of northern and western European ancestry. The Wrangell-Petersburg area has many residents of Scandinavian ancestry and the Aleutians contain a large Filipino population. Most of the state's black population lives in Anchorage, though Fairbanks also has a sizable black population.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 85.7% of Alaska residents aged 5 and older speak English at home. The next most common languages are Spanish (2.88%), Yupik (2.87%), Tagalog (1.54%), and Iñupiaq (1.06%). A total of 5.2% of Alaskans speak one of the state's 22 indigenous languages, known locally as Native American languages, of which most are moribund.
The 2005 gross state product was $39.9 billion. Its per-capita GSP for 2006 was $43,748, 7th in the nation. The oil and gas industry dominates the Alaskan economy, with more than 80% of the state's revenues derived from petroleum extraction. Alaska's main export product (excluding oil and natural gas) is seafood, primarily salmon, cod, Pollock and crab. Agriculture represents only a fraction of the Alaskan economy. Agricultural production is primarily for consumption within the state and includes nursery stock, dairy products, vegetables, and livestock. Manufacturing is limited, with most foodstuffs and general goods imported from elsewhere. Employment is primarily in government and industries such as natural resource extraction, shipping, and transportation. Military bases are a significant component of the economy in both Fairbanks and Anchorage. Federal subsidies are also an important part of the economy, allowing the state to keep taxes low. Its industrial outputs are crude petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, precious metals, zinc and other mining, seafood processing, timber and wood products. There is also a growing service and tourism sector. Tourists have contributed to the economy by supporting local lodging.
Alaska has vast energy resources. Major oil and gas reserves are found in the Alaska North Slope (ANS) and Cook Inlet basins. According to the Energy Information Administration, Alaska ranks second in the nation in crude oil production. Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope is the highest yielding oil field in the United States typically producing about . The Trans-Alaska Pipeline can pump up to of crude oil per day, more than any other crude oil pipeline in the United States. Additionally, substantial coal deposits are found in Alaska’s bituminous, sub-bituminous, and lignite coal basins. Alaska also offers some of the highest hydroelectric power potential in the country from its numerous rivers. Large swaths of the Alaskan coastline offer wind and geothermal energy potential as well.
Alaska's economy depends heavily on increasingly expensive diesel fuel for heating, transportation, electric power and light. Though wind and hydroelectric power are abundant and underutilized, proposals for state-wide energy systems (e.g. with special low-cost electric interties) were judged uneconomical (at the time of the report, 2001) due to low (<$0.50/Gal) fuel prices, long distances and low population. The cost of a gallon of gas in urban Alaska today is usually $0.30-$0.60 higher than the national average; prices in rural areas are generally significantly higher but vary widely depending on transportation costs, seasonal usage peaks, nearby petroleum development infrastructure and many other factors.
Alaska produces 14.3% of domestically produced oil in the United States, an amount equal to 4.3% of the total oil consumption of the U.S.
The introduction of big-box stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks (Wal-Mart in March 2004), and Juneau also did much to lower prices. However, rural Alaska suffers from extremely high prices for food and consumer goods, compared to the rest of the country due to the relatively limited transportation infrastructure. Many rural residents come into these cities and purchase food and goods in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club. Some have embraced the free shipping offers of some online retailers to purchase items much more cheaply than they could in their own communities, if they are available at all.
Alaska has an abundance of seafood, with the primary fisheries in the Bering Sea and the North Pacific, and seafood is one of the few food items that is often cheaper within the state than outside it. Many Alaskans fish the rivers during Salmon season to gather significant quantities of their household diet while fishing for subsistence, sport, or both.
Hunting for subsistence, primarily caribou, moose, and sheep is still common in the state, particularly in remote Bush communities. An example of a traditional native food is Akutaq, the Eskimo ice cream, which can consist of reindeer fat, seal oil, dried fish meat and local berries.
Most food in Alaska is transported into the state from "outside", and shipping costs make food in the cities relatively expensive. In rural areas, subsistence hunting and gathering is an essential activity because imported food is prohibitively expense. The cost of importing food to villages begins at $0.07/lb and rises rapidly to $0.50/lb or more. The cost of delivering a 7-pound gallon of milk is about $3.50 in many villages where per capita income can be $20,000 or less. Fuel for snow machines and boats that consume a couple gallons per hour can exceed $8.00.
Alaska has few road connections compared to the rest of the U.S. The state's road system covers a relatively small area of the state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway, the principal route out of the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by road, only a car ferry, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system, or building a road connection from Haines. The western part of Alaska has no road system connecting the communities with the rest of Alaska.
One unique feature of the Alaska Highway system is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, an active Alaska Railroad tunnel recently upgraded to provide a paved roadway link with the isolated community of Whittier on Prince William Sound to the Seward Highway about 50 miles southeast of Anchorage. At nearly the tunnel was the longest road tunnel in North America until 2007. The tunnel is the longest combination road and rail tunnel in North America.
The railroad, though famed for its summertime tour passenger service, played a vital role in Alaska's development, moving freight into Alaska while transporting natural resources southward (i.e., coal from the Usibelli coal mine near Healy to Seward and gravel from the Matanuska Valley to Anchorage.)
The Alaska Railroad was one of the last railroads in North America to use cabooses in regular service and still uses them on some gravel trains. It continues to offer one of the last flag stop routes in the country. A stretch of about of track along an area north of Talkeetna remains inaccessible by road; the railroad provides the only transportation to rural homes and cabins in the area; until construction of the Parks Highway in the 1970s, the railroad provided the only land access to most of the region along its entire route.
In northern Southeast Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad also partly runs through the State from Skagway northwards into Canada (British Colombia and Yukon Territory), crossing the border at White Pass Summit. This line is now mainly used by tourists, often arriving by cruise liner at Skagway. It featured in the 1983 BBC television series Great Little Railways.
Alaska's well-developed state-owned ferry system (known as the Alaska Marine Highway) serves the cities of Southeast, the Gulf Coast and the Alaska Peninsula. The system also operates a ferry service from Bellingham, Washington and Prince Rupert, British Columbia in Canada via the Inside Passage to Skagway. The Inter-Island Ferry Authority also serves as an important marine link for many communities in the Prince of Wales Island region of Southeast and works in concert with the Alaska Marine Highway.
In recent years, large cruise ships began creating a summertime tourism market, mainly connecting the Pacific Northwest to Southeast Alaska and, to a lesser degree, towns along the north gulf coast. Several times each summer, the population of Ketchikan sharply rises for a few hours when two ships dock to debark more than a thousand passengers each while four other ships lie at anchor nearby, waiting their turn at the dock.
Cities not served by road or sea can be reached only by air or by hiking/dogsled, accounting for Alaska's extremely well-developed bush air services—an Alaskan novelty. Anchorage itself, and to a lesser extent Fairbanks, are serviced by many major airlines. Air travel is the cheapest and most efficient form of transportation in and out of the state. Anchorage recently completed extensive remodeling and construction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to help accommodate the upsurge in tourism (in 2000–2001, the latest year for which data is available, 2.4 million total arrivals to Alaska were counted, 1.7 million via air travel; 1.4 million were visitors).
Regular flights to most villages and towns within the state are commercially viable are challenging to provide, so they are heavily subsidized by the federal government through the Essential Air Service program. Alaska Airlines is the only major airline offering in-state travel with jet service (sometimes in combination cargo and passenger Boeing 737-400s) from Anchorage and Fairbanks to regional hubs like Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Kodiak, and other larger communities as well as to major Southeast and Alaska Peninsula communities. The bulk of remaining commercial flight offerings come from small regional commuter airlines such as Era Aviation, PenAir, and Frontier Flying Service. The smallest towns and villages must rely on scheduled or chartered bush flying services using general aviation aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, the most popular aircraft in use in the state. Much of this service can be attributed to the Alaska bypass mail program which subsidizes bulk mail delivery to Alaskan rural communities. The program requires 70% of that subsidy to go to carriers who offer passenger service to the communities. Perhaps the most quintessentially Alaskan plane is the bush seaplane. The world's busiest seaplane base is Lake Hood, located next to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, where flights bound for remote villages without an airstrip carry passengers, cargo, and lots of items from stores and warehouse clubs. Alaska has the highest number of pilots per capita of any U.S. state: out of the estimated 663,661 residents, 8,550 are pilots, or about one in 78. Meaning more than 1% of Alaskans are qualified pilots.
The State of Alaska employs approximately 15,000 employees statewide.
The Alaska Legislature consists of a 40-member House of Representatives and a 20-member Senate. Senators serve four year terms and House members two. The Governor of Alaska serves four-year terms. The lieutenant governor runs separately from the governor in the primaries, but during the general election, the nominee for governor and nominee for lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket.
Alaska's court system has four levels: the Alaska Supreme Court, the court of appeals, the superior courts and the district courts. The superior and district courts are trial courts. Superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction, while district courts only hear certain types of cases, including misdemeanor criminal cases and civil cases valued up to $100,000. The Supreme Court and the Court Of Appeals are appellate courts. The Court Of Appeals is required to hear appeals from certain lower-court decisions, including those regarding criminal prosecutions, juvenile delinquency, and habeas corpus. The Supreme Court hears civil appeals and may in its discretion hear criminal appeals.
Alaska is one of the states with a more relaxed marijuana policy, where possession of up to one ounce is legal.
The state has possessed an independence movement favoring secession from the United States, with the Alaska Independence Party labeled as one of the "the most significant state-level third parties operating in the 20th century".
Most Alaskan governors have been conservatives, generally Republicans, but some have not always been elected under the official Republican banner. For example, Republican Governor Wally Hickel was elected to the office for a second term in 1990 after leaving the Republican ship and briefly joining the Alaskan Independence Party ticket just long enough to be reelected. He subsequently officially rejoined the Republican fold in 1994.
While Alaska has no state sales tax, 89 municipalities collect a local sales tax, from 1% to 7.5%, typically 3% to 5%. Other local taxes levied include raw fish taxes, hotel, motel, and B&B 'bed' taxes, severance taxes, liquor and tobacco] taxes, gaming (pull tabs) taxes, tire taxes and fuel transfer taxes. A percentage of revenue collected from certain state taxes and license fees (such as petroleum, aviation motor fuel, telephone cooperative) is shared with municipalities in Alaska.
Fairbanks has one of the highest property taxes in the state as no sales or income taxes are assessed in the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB). A sales tax for the FNSB has been voted on many times, but has yet to be approved, leading law makers to increase taxes dramatically on other goods such as liquor and tobacco.
In 2008 the Tax Foundation ranked Alaska as having the 4th most "business friendly" tax policy. Superior states were Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota.
|2004||61.07% 190,889||35.52% 111,025|
|2000||58.62% 167,398||27.67% 79,004|
|1996||50.80% 122,746||33.27% 80,380|
|1992||39.46% 102,000||30.29% 78,294|
|1988||59.59% 119,251||36.27% 72,584|
|1984||66.65% 138,377||29.87% 62,007|
|1980||54.35% 86,112||26.41% 41,842|
|1976||57.90% 71,555||35.65% 44,058|
|1972||58.13% 55,349||34.62% 32,967|
|1968||45.28% 37,600||42.65% 35,411|
|1964||34.09% 22,930||65.91% 44,329|
|1960||50.94% 30,953||49.06% ''29,809|
In presidential elections, the state's electoral college votes have been almost always won by a Republican nominee. No state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. Alaska supported Democratic nominee Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide year of 1964, although the 1960 and 1968 elections were close. President George W. Bush won the state's electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 25 percentage points with 61.1% of the vote. The Alaska Bush, the city of Juneau and midtown and downtown Anchorage have been strongholds of the Democratic party. Matanuska-Susitna Borough and South Anchorage typically have the strongest Republican showing. As of 2004, well over half of all registered voters have chosen "Non-Partisan" or "Undeclared" as their affiliation, despite recent attempts to close primaries.
Because of its population relative to other U.S. states, Alaska has only one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. This seat is currently being held by Republican Don Young, who was re-elected to his 18th consecutive term in 2006.
Alaska's members of the U.S. Congress are all Republican. U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was appointed to the position following the death of U.S. Senator Bob Bartlett in December 1968, and has not lost a re-election campaign since. As the longest-serving Republican in the Senate (sometimes nicknamed "Senator-For-Life" and often referred to as "Uncle Ted"), Stevens has been a crucial force in gaining federal money for his state. His seniority in Senate makes him one of the most influential Republican Senate members, however, Stevens received a federal indictment on corruption charges on July 29, 2008. He had previously gained attention for referring to the internet as "a series of tubes" on the Congress floor.
Republican Frank Murkowski held the state's other senatorial position. After being elected governor in 2002, he resigned. He then appointed his daughter, State Representative Lisa Murkowski as his successor. In response to a subsequent ballot initiative, the state legislature attempted to amend the law to limit the length of gubernatorial appointments. She won a full six-year term in 2004. In 2006 Frank Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by Sarah Palin, who in 2008 became the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States. Palin was the first woman to govern Alaska and the first Alaskan to receive the Vice Presidential nomination of a major party.
Alaska is not divided into counties, as most of the other U.S. states, but it is divided into boroughs. Many of the more densely populated parts of the state are part of Alaska's sixteen boroughs, which function somewhat similarly to counties in other states. However, unlike county-equivalents in the other 49 states, the boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state. The area not part of any borough is referred to as the Unorganized Borough. The Unorganized Borough has no government of its own, but the U.S. Census Bureau in cooperation with the state divided the Unorganized Borough into 11 census areas solely for the purposes of statistical analysis and presentation.
The state's most populous city is Anchorage, home to 278,700 people in 2006, 225,744 of whom live in the urbanized area. The richest location in Alaska by per capita income is Halibut Cove ($89,895). Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage are the three largest cities in the U.S. by area.
|Cities of 100,000 or more people|
|Towns of 10,000-100,000 people|
|Towns of 1,000-10,000 people|
|Smaller towns Alaska has many smaller towns, especially in the Alaska Bush, the portion of the state that is inaccessible by road.|
There are more than a dozen colleges and universities in Alaska. Accredited universities in Alaska include the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, and Alaska Pacific University. 43% of the population attends or attended college.
Alaska has had a problem with a "brain drain". Many of its young people, including most of the highest academic achievers, leave the state after high school graduation and do not return. The University of Alaska has attempted to combat this by offering partial four-year scholarships to the top 10% of Alaska high school graduates, via the Alaska Scholars Program.
Domestic abuse and other violent crimes are also at high levels in the state; this is in part linked to alcohol abuse.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center celebrates the rich heritage of Alaska's 11 cultural groups. Their purpose is to enhance self-esteem among Native people and to encourage cross-cultural exchanges among all people. The Alaska Native Arts Foundation promotes and markets Native art from all regions and cultures in the State, both on the internet; at its gallery in Anchorage, 500 West Sixth Avenue, and at the Alaska House New York, 109 Mercer Street in SoHo.
Alaska Natives -- Inuit, Inupiaq or Yupik drummers and dancers -- give informal performances in the lobby of the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage on weekday evenings.
There are many established music festivals in Alaska, including the Alaska Folk Festival, the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival the Anchorage Folk Festival, the Athabascan Old-Time Fiddling Festival, the Sitka Jazz Festival, and the Sitka Summer Music Festival. The most prominent symphony in Alaska is the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, though the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Juneau Symphony are also notable. The Anchorage Opera is currently the state's only professional opera company, though there are several volunteer and semi-professional organizations in the state as well.
The psychological thriller, Insomnia, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams was extensively shot in Canada, but was set in Alaska. The 2007 horror feature 30 Days of Night, is set in Barrow, Alaska but was filmed in New Zealand. Most films and television shows set in Alaska are not filmed there; for example, Northern Exposure, set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, was actually filmed in Roslyn, Washington.
The 1983 Disney movie Never Cry Wolf was at least partially shot in Alaska. The 1991 film "White Fang" starring Ethan Hawke was filmed in and around Haines, Alaska. The 1999 John Sayles film Limbo starring David Strathairn, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Kris Kristofferson was filmed in Juneau. Sean Penn filmed large portions of the film [[Into the Wild on location in Alaska. In 2008 the movie 30 Days of Night was filmed partially in Alaska.