Alaska

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State of Alaska
Image:Flag of Alaska.svg Image:AlaskaStateSealTransparent.png
Flag of Alaska Seal of Alaska
Nickname(s): The Last Frontier,
The Land of the Midnight Sun
Motto(s): North to the Future
Official language(s) English
Capital Juneau
Largest city Anchorage
Area  Ranked 1st
 - Total 663,267 sq mi
(1,717,855 km²)
 - Width 808 miles (1,300 km)
 - Length 1,479 miles (2,380 km)
 - % water 13.77
 - Latitude 51°20'N to 71°50'N
 - Longitude 130°W to 173°E
Population  Ranked 47th
 - Total (2000) 626,932
 - Density 1.09/sq mi 
0.42/km² (50th)
 - Median income  $54,627 (6th)
Elevation  
 - Highest point Mount McKinley<ref name=usgs>Template:Cite web</ref>
20,320 ft  (6,194 m)
 - Mean 1900 ft  (580 m)
 - Lowest point Pacific Ocean<ref name=usgs/>
0 ft  (0 m)
Admission to Union  January 3, 1959 (49th)
Governor Frank H. Murkowski (R)
U.S. Senators Ted Stevens (R)
Lisa Murkowski (R)
Time zones  
 - east of 169° 30' Alaska: UTC-9/DST-8
 - west of 169° 30' Aleutian: UTC-10/DST-9
Abbreviations AK US-AK
Web site www.state.ak.us

Alaska (IPA: [əˈlæskə]) is a state of the United States of America. Alaska is located in the extreme northwest portion of North America. It is by far the largest U.S. state in area, but one of the least populated. It is the 49th state, having been admitted to the Union on January 3, 1959. The name "Alaska" is most likely derived from the Aleut Alyeska, meaning "great country", "mainland" or "great land".

Contents

[edit] Geography

Alaska is one of the two U.S. states not bordered by another state, Hawaii being the other. It is the only non-contiguous state in North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of Canadian territory separate Alaska from Washington. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States that is part of the continental U.S. but is not part of the contiguous U.S. (The other two exclaves of the United States are the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, and Point Roberts, Washington.) Alaska is also the only mainland state whose capital city is accessible only via ship or air. No roads connect Juneau to the rest of the state.

It is bordered by 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 terms of land area (it is larger in area than all but 18 of the world's nations) at 570,380 square miles (1,477,261 km²), over twice as large as Texas, the next largest state. If a map of Alaska were superimposed upon a map of the 48 contiguous states, Alaska would overlap Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado, and if the state's westernmost point were superimposed on San Francisco, California, its easternmost point would be in Jacksonville, Florida. Alaska also has more coastline than all of the contiguous U.S. combined.

Image:Looking back to Little Port Walter - NOAA.jpg
Near Little Port Walter in Southeast Alaska.

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 19,049,236 acres (79,318 km²). Much of the northwest is covered by the larger National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, which covers around 23 million acres.

With its numerous islands, Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mount Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) 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 35 feet (10.7 m). (Many sources say Turnagain has the second-greatest tides in North America, but it has since been shown that several areas in Canada have larger tides, according to an Anchorage Daily News article dated 6/23/03.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>)

Alaska is home to 3.5 million lakes of 20 acres (8 ha) or larger[1]. Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover 188,320 square miles (487,747 km², mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands). Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice, covers some 16,000 square miles (41,440 km²) of land and 1,200 square miles (3,108 km²) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon, Canada, covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km²) alone.

The Aleutian Islands cross longitude 180°, so Alaska can be considered the easternmost state as well as the westernmost. Alaska and, especially, the Aleutians are one of the extreme points of the United States. 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 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 thirteen 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." The function is the same, but whereas some states use a three-tiered system of decentralisation — state/county/township — most of Alaska only uses two tiers — state/borough. Owing to the state's 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. 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, on the other hand, has a separate borough (the Fairbanks North Star Borough) and municipality (the City of Fairbanks).

See also:


[edit] Climate

The climate of Alaska, as would be expected given its location, is cold compared to the climate of the other 49 states; however, there is a great variety in the climate between the various regions, which one would also expect from a state as large as Alaska. Thunderstorms are uncommon in Alaska, while tornadoes have been a very rare event. Snow, of course, occurs everywhere in Alaska, although the amount varies considerably. The climatic areas of Alaska can best be divided into the following regions with the largest city in each region being typical of the climate expected in that region- the southeast panhandle (Juneau), the South Central (Anchorage), Western Alaska (Nome), the interior (Fairbanks), and the North Slope (Barrow).

The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is best described as a "cooler version of Seattle". On an annual basis, this is both the wettest and warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in the winter and high precipitation throughout the year. Juneau averages over 50 inches of precipitation a year, while other areas receive over 275 inches.<ref name="AK-YK Precip">Mean Annual Precipitation in Alaska-Yukon. Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. Last accessed October 23, 2006.</ref> This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months.

The climate in south central Alaska, with Anchorage as a typical city, is mild by Alaska standards. This is due in large part to its proximity to the coast. While it doesn't get nearly as much rain as the southeast of Alaska, it does get more snow, although days tend to be clearer here. On average, Anchorage receives 16 inches of precipitation a year, with around 75 inches of snow, although there are areas in the south central which receive far more snow.

The climate of Western Alaska is determined in large part by the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. The temperature is somewhat moderate considering how far north the area is. This area has a tremendous amount of variety, especially when considering precipitation. The northern side of the Seward Peninsula is technically a desert (less 10 inches of precipitation annually), while some locations between Dillingham and Bethel average around 100 inches of precipitation.<ref name="AK-YK Precip"/>

The climate of the interior of Alaska is best described as extreme. Some of the hottest and coldest temperatures in Alaska occur around the area near Fairbanks. The summers can have temperatures reaching into the upper 80s °F, while in the winter, the temperature can fall below -60° F. Precipitation isn't much in the interior, often less than 10 inches a year, but what precipitation falls in the winter tends to stay the entire winter.

The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is what would be expected for an area north of the Arctic Circle: very cold in the winter and cool in the summer. Even in July, the average low temperature is barely above freezing in Barrow, at 34 °F (1 °C).<ref>History for Barrow, Alaska. Monthly Summary for July 2006. Weather Underground. Last accessed October 23, 2006.</ref> Precipitation is light in this part of Alaska, with many places averaging less than 10 inches a year, mostly in the form of snow which stays on the ground almost the entire year.

[edit] History

Main article: History of Alaska

Alaska was first inhabited by humans who came across the Bering Land Bridge. Eventually, Alaska became populated by the Inupiaq, Inuit and Yupik Eskimos, Aleuts, and a variety of Native American groups. Most, if not all, of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas probably took this route and continued further south and east.

Image:1860-russian-america.jpg
In this 1860 map, Russian America (Alaska) was to the west of British America (Canada).
The Last Frontier
State birdWillow Ptarmigan
State land mammalMoose
State marine mammalBowhead Whale
State fishKing Salmon
State insectSkimmer Dragonfly
State flowerForget-me-not
(Myosotis alpestris)
State motto"North To The Future"
State song"Alaska's Flag"
State treeSitka Spruce
State fossilWoolly Mammoth
State gemJade
State sportDog Mushing

The first written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. Alaska became a Russian colony in 1744, but the first Russian settlement, Nikolaevsk on Kodiak Island, was founded only in 1784 by Grigory Shelikhov. The Russian-American Company hunted sea otters for their fur. The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation. By today the only Russian settlement in Alaska is Nikolaevsk, Alaska on Kenai Peninsula, populated by Old Believers in 1968.

Spaniards explored the coast and made some settlements during the 18th century. Remains of this early period are Spanish names such as Cordova and Valdez.

The news of the British North America Act, 1867, was nervously received in Washington, DC. It would create, on July 1, 1867, "one dominion under the name of Canada", and this led to expressions of "grave misgivings on the establishment of a monarchical state to the north" in what Canadians then called "the republic to the south". (See McNaughton's Short History of Canada.) U.S. Secretary of State William Seward thus urged, and the United States Senate thus approved, the treaty authorizing the purchase of Alaska from Imperial Russia for US$7,200,000 on April 9, 1867. The United States took possession and the American flag was raised over Alaska on October 18, which is commemorated as Alaska Day.

Russia still used the Julian Calendar in 1867, and the world had not yet been divided into standard time zones; thus, there was no international date line, and the day began in the morning instead of starting at midnight. So, while the American day now ends with sunset in western Alaska, the Russian day then started with sunrise in "eastern" Alaska. Thus, Friday, October 6, 1867, the day before the physical transfer of ownership, was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867—which was Saturday, October 7, 1867 in Russia. The change in date was due to America bringing the Gregorian Calendar to Alaska, while the lack of change in day resulted from Alaska's shift from being the starting point of the Russian day to being the ending point of the American day.

The purchase was unpopular in the United States, where it became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, calling it Seward's Day.

Supposedly, the first American administrator of Alaska was Polish immigrant Włodzmierz Krzyżanowski. However, the Anchorage Daily News was unable to find any conclusive information to support or disprove this claim.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Upon purchase, the area was called the Department of Alaska. Between 1884 and 1912 it was called the District of Alaska. Alaska was granted territorial status in 1912.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act on July 7, 1958, and Alaska formally became a state on January 3, 1959.

Alaska suffered one of the worst earthquakes in recorded history on Good Friday 1964 (see Good Friday Earthquake).

In 1976, the people of Alaska amended the state's constitution, establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. The fund invests a portion of the state's mineral revenue, including revenue from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, "to benefit all generations of Alaskans." In March 2005, the fund's value was over $30 billion.

Prior to 1983, the state lay across four different time zones—Pacific Standard Time (UTC -8 hours) in the southeast panhandle, a small area of Yukon Standard Time (UTC -9 hours) around Yakutat, Alaska–Hawaii Standard Time (UTC -10 hours) in the Anchorage and Fairbanks vicinity, with the Nome area and most of the Aleutian Islands observing Bering Standard Time (UTC -11 hours). In 1983 the number of time zones was reduced to two, with the entire mainland plus the inner Aleutian Islands going to UTC -9 hours (and this zone then being renamed Alaska Standard Time as the Yukon Territory had several years earlier (circa 1975) adopted a single time zone identical to Pacific Standard Time), and the remaining Aleutian Islands were slotted into the UTC −10 hours zone, which was then renamed Hawaii–Aleutian Standard Time.

Over the years, various vessels have been named USS Alaska, in honor of the state.

During World War II, three of the outer Aleutian Islands—Attu, Agattu and Kiska—were occupied by Japanese troops. It was the only territory within the current borders of the United States to have land occupied during the war.

[edit] Demographics

See also: List of boroughs and census areas in Alaska
Image:Alaska population map.png
Alaska Population Density Map
Historical populations
Census Pop.

<tr><td align="center">1950</td><td align="right">128,643</td><td align="right"> </td></tr><tr><td align="center">1960</td><td align="right">226,167</td><td align="right">75.8% </td></tr><tr><td align="center">1970</td><td align="right">300,382</td><td align="right">32.8% </td></tr><tr><td align="center">1980</td><td align="right">401,851</td><td align="right">33.8% </td></tr><tr><td align="center">1990</td><td align="right">550,043</td><td align="right">36.9% </td></tr><tr><td align="center">2000</td><td align="right">626,932</td><td align="right">14.0% </td></tr><tr><td align="center">2005 est</td><td align="right">663,661</td><td align="right">5.9% </td></tr>

As of 2005, Alaska has an estimated population of 663,661, which is an increase of 5,906, or 0.9%, from the prior year and an increase of 36,730, or 5.9%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 36,590 people (53,132 births minus 16,542 deaths), and an increase due to net migration of 1,181 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 5,800 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 4,619 people.

With a population of 626,932, according to the 2000 U.S. census, Alaska is ranked 48th out of the 50 States. But ranked by population density, Alaska is the least densely populated at 1.1 people per square mile (List of U.S. states by population density), with the next nearest ranking state, Wyoming, at 5.1 per square mile, and the most densely populated, New Jersey, at 1,134.4 per square mile.

For purposes of the federal census, the state is divided into artificial divisions defined geographically by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only.

The center of population of Alaska is located approximately 40 miles east of Anchorage. [2].

[edit] Race and ancestry

Demographics of Alaska (csv)
By race White Black AIAN Asian NHPI
AIAN is American Indian or Alaskan Native   -   NHPI is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
2000 (total population) 75.43% 4.46% 19.06% 5.24% 0.88%
2000 (Hispanic only) 3.42% 0.33% 0.45% 0.16% 0.06%
2005 (total population) 74.71% 4.72% 18.77% 5.90% 0.88%
2005 (Hispanic only) 4.32% 0.38% 0.48% 0.19% 0.05%
Growth 2000-2005 (total population) 4.85% 12.03% 4.27% 19.23% 5.35%
Growth 2000-2005 (non-Hispanic only) 3.49% 11.30% 4.02% 18.96% 5.86%
Growth 2000-2005 (Hispanic only) 33.56% 21.02% 14.52% 27.89% -1.95%

The largest ancestry groups in the state are: German (16.6%), Alaska Native or American Indian (15.6%), Irish (10.8%), British (9.6%), American (5.7%), and Norwegian (4.2%). Alaska has the largest percentage of American Indians of any state.

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. Fairbanks also has a sizeable black population as well.

As of 2000, 85.7% of Alaska residents age 5 and older speak only English at home and 5.2% speak Native American languages. Spanish speakers make up 2.9% of the population, followed by Tagalog speakers at 1.5% and Korean at 0.8%.

[edit] Languages

More than 90 languages are spoken in Alaska, including 20 which are indigenous to Alaska. The indigenous languages, known locally as Native languages, belong to two major language families.

As the homeland of two of North America's major language families, Eskimo-Aleut and Athabaskan, Alaska has been described as the crossroads of the continents, providing evidence for the recent settlement of North America via the Bering land bridge.

[edit] Religion

Image:RussianOrthodoxChurchInterior.jpg
Interior of a typical Orthodox church in Alaska

Notable is Alaska's relatively large Eastern Orthodox Christian population, a result of early Russian colonization and missionary work among indigenous Alaskans.

[edit] Economy

The state's 2005 total gross state product was $39.9 billion. Its per-capita GSP for 2005 was $60,079, 3rd in the nation. Alaska's economy relies heavily on petroleum extraction, with more than 80 percent of the state's revenues derived from this industry. 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 Alaska 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. 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's economy is heavily dependent 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.<ref>Screening Report for Alaska Rural Energy Plan, April, 2001</ref> The cost of a gallon of gas in Alaska today is usually $0.30-$0.60 higher than the national average.

The cost of goods in Alaska has long been higher than in the contiguous 48 states. This has changed for the most part in Anchorage and to a lesser extent in Fairbanks, where the cost of living has dropped somewhat in the past five years. Housing costs within the city of Fairbanks have remained almost unchanged (Example: one room, one bath apartment for $600-$700 a month). Outside the city limits, they are significantly lower (Example: 12x16 cabin $200-$400 a month).

Federal Government employees, namely United States Postal Service (USPS) workers, receive a Cost Of Living Allowance usually set at 25% of base pay because, while the cost of living has gone down, it is still one of the highest in the country.

The introduction of big-box stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks (Wal-Mart in March of 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 in to 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 is one of only six states with no state sales tax and one of seven states that do not levy an individual income tax. To finance state government operations, Alaska depends primarily on petroleum revenues. The Department of Revenue Tax Division reports regularly on the state's revenue sources. The Department also issues an annual overview of its operations, including new state laws that directly affect the tax division.

While Alaska has no state sales tax, 89 municipalities collect a local sales tax, with a range of between 1 percent and 7 percent. Typical sales tax rates are 3 to 5 percent. Other types of local taxes levied include raw fish taxes, hotel, motel, and B'n'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.

Property taxes are relatively low, with only 25 of 161 incorporated municipalities or boroughs in the state assessing property taxes. [citation needed] 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. The average per capita property tax paid in all municipalities, excluding oil and gas properties, was US$999 (2003 data).[citation needed]

[edit] Transportation

See also: List of Alaska Routes

Alaska is arguably the least-connected state in terms of road transportation. 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, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system. One unique feature of the road system is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with the relatively isolated community of Whittier. The tunnel held the title of the longest road tunnel in North America (at nearly 2.5 miles [4 km]) until completion of the 3.5 mile (5.6km) Interstate 93 tunnel as part of the "Big Dig" project in Boston, Massachusetts. The tunnel retains the title of the longest combination road and rail tunnel in North America.

The Alaska Railroad runs from Seward through Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks to North Pole, with spurs to Whittier and Palmer (locally known as "The Railbelt"). The railroad is famous for its summertime passenger services but also plays a vital part in moving Alaska's natural resources, such as coal and gravel, to ports in Anchorage, Whittier and Seward. The Alaska Railroad is one of the only remaining railroads in North America to use cabooses in regular service and offers one of the last flag stop routes in the country. A stretch of about 60 miles of track along an area inaccessible by road serves as the only transportation to cabins in the area.

Most cities and villages in the state are accessible only by sea or air. Alaska has a well-developed ferry system, known as the Alaska Marine Highway, which serves the cities of Southeast and the Alaska Peninsula. The system also operates a ferry service from Bellingham, Washington up the Inside Passage to Skagway. In the Prince of Wales Island region of Southeast, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority also serves as an important marine link for many communities, and works in concert with the Alaska Marine Highway. Tourist sea travel is also popular on Alaska cruises. Cities not served by road or sea can only be reached by air, 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 are available, 2.4 million total arrivals to Alaska were counted, 1.7 million via air travel; 1.4 million were visitors<ref>State of Alaska Office of Economic Development. Alaska Visitor Arrivals and Profile-Summer 2001. November, 2002; retrieved September 11, 2006.</ref><ref>State of Alaska Office of Economic Development. Alaska Visitor Arrivals and Profile-Fall/Winter 2001. November, 2002; retrieved September 11, 2006.</ref>).

However, regular flights to most villages and towns within the state are commercially challenging to provide. Alaska Airlines is the only major airline offering in-state travel with jet service (sometimes in combination cargo and passenger Boeing 737-200s) 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 like: 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. But 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 every 78. <ref>Federal Aviation Administration. 2005 U.S. Civil Airman Statistics</ref>

Another Alaskan transportation method is the dogsled. In modern times, dog mushing is more of a sport than a true means of transportation. Various races are held around the state, but the best known is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,150-mile (1850 km) trail from Anchorage to Nome. The race commemorates the famous 1925 serum run to Nome in which mushers and dogs like Balto took much-needed medicine to the diphtheria-stricken community of Nome when all other means of transportation had failed. Mushers from all over the world come to Anchorage each March to compete for cash prizes and prestige.

In areas not served by road or rail, primary summer transportation is by All-terrain vehicle and primary winter transportation is by snowmobile, or "snow machine," as it is commonly referred to in Alaska.

Image:Alaska satellite.PNG
Satellite image of Alaska.

[edit] Law and government

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
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
Main article: Government of Alaska

Alaska is often characterized as a Republican-leaning state with strong Libertarian tendencies. Local political communities often work on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights. It is very important to note that, as of 9/2004, well over half of all registered voters choose "Non-Partisan" or "Undeclared" as their affiliation [3], despite recent attempts to close primaries.

Alaska Natives, while organized in and around their communities, are often active within the Native corporations which have been given ownership over large tracts of land, and thus need to deliberate resource conservation and development issues.

In presidential elections, the state's Electoral College votes have been most often won by a Republican nominee. Only once has Alaska supported a Democratic nominee, when it supported Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide year of 1964, although the 1960 and 1968 elections were close. No state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. 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. Juneau stands out as an area that supports Democratic candidates.

When the United States Congress, in 1957 and 1958, debated the wisdom of admitting it as the 49th state, much of the political debate centered on whether Alaska would become a Democratic or Republican-leaning state. Conventional wisdom had it that, with its penchant for new ideas and dependence on the Federal Government largess for basic needs, it would become a Democratic stronghold, about which Republicans, and the Republican Administration of Dwight Eisenhower had reservations. Given time, those fears proved unfounded. After an early flirtatious period with liberal politics, the political climate of Alaska changed quickly once petroleum was discovered and the federal government came to be seen as 'meddling' in local affairs. Still, despite its libertarian leanings, the state regularly takes in more federal money than it gives out, a fact that can be attributed at least partially to its equal representation in the United States Senate.

In recent years, the Alaska Legislature is a 20-member Senate serving 4-year terms and 40-member House serving 2-year terms. It has been dominated by conservatives, generally Republicans. Likewise, recent state governors have been mostly conservatives, although not always elected under the official 'Party' banner. Republican Wally Hickel was elected to the office for a second term in 1990 after jumping 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.

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 of 1968, and has never lost a re-election campaign since. As the longest-serving Republican in the Senate (sometimes nicknamed "Senator-For-Life"), Stevens has been a crucial force in gaining Federal money for his state.

Until his resignation from the U.S. Senate after being elected governor, Republican Frank Murkowski held the state's other senatorial position and, as governor, was allowed to appoint his daughter, Lisa Murkowski as his successor (under massive public pressure, the State legislature amended the constitution to eliminate gubernatorial appointments in the future). She won a full six-year term on her own in 2004.

Alaska's sole U.S. Representative, Don Young, was re-elected to his 17th consecutive term, also in 2004. His seniority in House makes him one of the most influential Republican House members. His position on the House Transportation Committee allowed him to parlay some $450 million to the Gravina Island Bridge and the Knik Arm Bridge, both derided as "bridges to nowhere". Young gained national publicity for his insistence that this money not be reallocated to rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

[edit] Important cities and towns

Alaska's most populous city is Anchorage, home of 260,283 people (as of 2000), 225,744 of whom live in the urbanized area. It ranks third in the List of U.S. cities by area, behind two other Alaskan cities. Sitka ranks as America's largest city by area, followed closely by Juneau.

Image:SitkaNOAA.jpg
The fishing town of Sitka.
Cities of 100,000 or more people
Towns of 10,000-100,000 people
Towns of fewer than 10,000 people
   

[edit] 25 richest places in Alaska

Further information: Alaska locations by per capita income

Ranked by per capita income:

1. Halibut Cove, Alaska $89,895
2. Chicken, Alaska $65,400
3. Edna Bay, Alaska $58,967
4. Sunrise, Alaska $56,000
5. Lowell Point, Alaska $45,790
6. Petersville, Alaska $43,200
7. Coldfoot, Alaska $42,620
8. Port Clarence, Alaska $35,286
9. Hobart Bay, Alaska $34,900

 

10. Red Dog Mine, Alaska $34,348
11. Adak, Alaska $31,747
12. Meyers Chuck, Alaska $31,660
13. Pelican, Alaska $29,347
14. Ester, Alaska $29,155
15. Chignik Lagoon, Alaska $28,941
16. Four Mile Road, Alaska $28,465
17. Healy, Alaska $28,225
18. Moose Pass, Alaska $28,147

 

19. Cube Cove, Alaska $27,920
20. Womens Bay, Alaska $27,746
21. Skagway, Alaska $27,700
22. Nelson Lagoon, Alaska $27,596
23. Valdez, Alaska $27,341
24. McKinley Park, Alaska $27,255
25. Attu Station, Alaska $26,964

[edit] Education

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development administers many school districts in Alaska.

In addition, the state operates a boarding school called Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka.

43% of the population attends college.

[edit] Colleges and universities

[edit] Miscellaneous topics

[edit] Social issues

Alaska has long had a problem with alcohol use and abuse. Many rural communities in Alaska have outlawed its import. "Dry", "wet", and "damp" are terms describing a community's laws on liquor consumption. This problem directly relates to Alaska's high rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) as well as contributing to the high rate of suicides. This is a controversial topic for many residents.

Alaska has also had a problem with "brain drain" as many of its young people, including most of the highest academic achievers, leave the state upon graduating high school. While for many this functions as a sort of walkabout, many do not return to the state. The University of Alaska has been successfully combating this[citation needed] by offering four-year scholarships to the top 10 percent of Alaska high school graduates, the Alaska Scholars Program.

Domestic abuse and other violent crimes are also at notoriously high levels in the state; this is in part linked to alcohol abuse.

[edit] Notable Alaskans

  • Ray Mala (1906-1952) is the first Native American movie star and the only film star the State of Alaska has yet to produce. He starred in MGM's Oscar-winning classic "Eskimo/Mala the Magnificent" filmed entirely on location in Alaska. His son Dr. Ted Mala became the first Alaska Native male to become a Doctor. Dr. Mala served on Governor Walter J. Hickel's Cabinet (1990) as Commissioner of Health and Social Services.
  • Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett (1904–1968) was the territorial delegate to the US Congress from 1944 to 1958, and was elected as the first senior U.S. Senator in 1958 and re-elected to a full 6-year term in 1960 and again in 1966. There are streets, buildings, a high school and even the first state ferry, named for him.
  • Scott Gomez, (b. 1979) a professional ice hockey player who was the first Latino player in the NHL.
  • Ernest Gruening (1886–1974) was appointed Governor of the Territory of Alaska in 1939, and served in that position for fourteen years. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1958 and re-elected in 1962 and served until 1969.
  • Jay Hammond (1922–2005) was Governor during the building of the Alaska Pipeline and established the Alaska Permanent Fund, providing Alaskans with essentially free money. He is regarded as somewhat of a hero because of this. He was also governor during passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and effectively served to moderate associated issues within the state among disparate interest groups ranging from conservationists to natives to pro-development interests.
  • George Sharrock (1910–2005) moved to the territory before statehood, eventually elected as the mayor of Anchorage and served during the Good Friday Earthquake in March 1964. This was the most devastating earthquake to hit Alaska and it sunk beach property, damaged roads and destroyed buildings all over the south central area. Sharrock, sometimes called the "earthquake mayor," led the city's rebuilding effort over six months.
  • Carlos Boozer, (b. 1982) of Juneau, is the most successful professional basketball player in the history of the state. Carlos attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. While at Duke, Carlos played a pivotal starring role in Duke University's national championship run in 2001. Drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers and currently a star power-forward for the Utah Jazz, Carlos has garnered attention as the replacement for former Jazz great, Karl Malone.
  • Soapy Smith, Jefferson Randolph Smith, "Alaska's Outlaw." The infamous confidence man and early settler, who ran the goldrush town of Skagway, Alaska, 1897-98.
  • Fran Ulmer was the first woman elected to statewide office—she became Lieutenant Governor in 1994.
  • Curt Schilling and Shawn Chacon are active players in the MLB native to Alaska.
  • Jewel Kilcher (b. 1974) is a famous recording artist with hit singles, "Foolish Games", "You Were Meant For Me", "Who Will Save Your Soul", "Hands", "Standing Still", "Intuition", and the poetry book "A Night Without Armor". Although born in Utah, Jewel was raised in Homer, Alaska.
  • Dominic S. F. Lee (b. 1943), the writer of "The American Missionaries, the Mandarins, and the Opium War: Circa 1839 to 1911", being a Hong Kong-born Chinese, being the main actor in modernization of Arctic Alaska in construction industry.
  • Susan Butcher (1954-2006), dog-musher, four-time winner of the Iditarod and the second woman to win that race.
  • 36 Crazyfists a four-piece post-hardcore/metalcore music group originating from Anchorage, Alaska

[edit] Motto

"North to the Future" is the official state motto of Alaska, adopted by the Alaska Legislature for the 1967 centennial of the Alaska Purchase. The motto, meant to portray Alaska as a land of promise, was coined by Juneau journalist Richard Peter, who called it "a reminder that beyond the horizon of urban clutter there is a Great Land beneath our flag that can provide a new tomorrow for this century's 'huddled masses yearning to be free'."

[edit] Libraries

The four main libraries in the state are the Alaska State Library in Juneau, the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library in Fairbanks, the Z. J. Loussac Library in Anchorage, and the UAA/APU Consortium Library, also in Anchorage. Alaska is one of three states (the others are Delaware and Rhode Island) that does not have a Carnegie library.

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Political parties

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Juneau (capital)

Regions

Aleutian Islands | Arctic Alaska | Bush Alaska | Interior | Kenai Peninsula | Mat-Su Valley | North Slope | Panhandle | Seward Peninsula | Southcentral | Southwest | Tanana Valley | Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

Largest cities

Anchorage | Barrow | Bethel | Fairbanks | Homer | Juneau | Kenai | Ketchikan | Kodiak | Kotzebue | Nome | Palmer | Petersburg | Seward | Sitka | Unalaska | Valdez | Wasilla

Boroughs

Aleutians East | Anchorage | Bristol Bay | Denali | Fairbanks North Star | Haines | Juneau | Kenai Peninsula | Ketchikan Gateway | Kodiak Island | Lake and Peninsula | Matanuska-Susitna | North Slope | Northwest Arctic | Sitka | Yakutat

Census areas

Aleutians West | Bethel | Dillingham | Nome | Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan | Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon | Southeast Fairbanks | Valdez-Cordova | Wade Hampton | Wrangell-Petersburg | Yukon-Koyukuk | (see also) Unorganized Borough

Image:Flag of the United States.svg Political divisions of the United States
Capital District of Columbia
States Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming
Insular areas American Samoa | Guam | Northern Mariana Islands | Puerto Rico | Virgin Islands
Minor outlying islands Baker Island | Howland Island | Jarvis Island | Johnston Atoll | Kingman Reef | Midway Atoll | Navassa Island | Palmyra Atoll | Wake Island

<span class="FA" id="hu" style="display:none;" />

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Alaska

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