Alaska

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Posted by pompos 03/31/2009 @ 19:11

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News headlines
Global warming has a reverse effect on Alaska's state capital - Gadling
But in Alaska, that quirky, individualistic state, the reverse is happening - at least in one area. In an article today from the New York Times, Cornelia Dean reports that Juneau, the only US capital not accessible by road, is actually gaining land as...
Alaska homeless theorize about deaths - United Press International
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 18 (UPI) -- A group of homeless men living in the woods of Campbell Creek Park in Anchorage, Alaska, said they have some theories about four recently discovered bodies. Police in Anchorage said the bodies of four homeless men...
Senate panel looks at Alaska Native corporation contracts - KTUU
by Mike Ross ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- They are a huge economic engine for Alaska, but a congressional investigation is beginning into Alaska Native corporations and the federal contracts that have earned them billions of dollars....
Land swap postponed - Kodiak Daily Mirror
By BRADLEY ZINT The Kodiak City Council postponed a resolution at its regular meeting, Thursday evening, that would transfer city-owned land to the Kodiak Island Borough for space for a new Alaska Department of Fish and Game building on Near Island....
Alaska Could Lead The Nation In Renewable Energy - KTVA CBS 11 News Alaska
An energy conference is going on in downtown Anchorage about how to make Alaska more energy efficient and using the state as one of the worlds leaders for renewable energy. Renewable Energy Alaska project is hosting a two day Business of Clean Energy...
OEM and Alaska 2-1-1 form partnership - KTVA CBS 11 News Alaska
The Municipality of Anchorage's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Alaska 2-1-1 recently formalized their long-term partnership through a three-year lease to co-locate Alaska 2-1-1 at the Emergency Operations Center....
Marathon plans to halve Cook Inlet well program - Reuters
By Yereth Rosen ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 18 (Reuters) - Marathon Oil (MRO.N), the biggest player in new natural gas development in Alaska's Cook Inlet basin, plans to halve its drilling program at the aging basin this year, the company's Alaska manager...
Seat belt campaign kicks off in Alaska - Fort Mills Times
JUNEAU, Alaska — The state Department of Transportation and other agencies are kicking off a seat belt enforcement campaign. The spotlight on the Click It or Ticket campaign began Monday will last through May 31. Cindy Cashen, Alaska Highway Safety...
Alaska Legislative Session Roundup - Progressive States Network
Alaska's 2009 legislative session was full of strife between lawmakers and Gov. Sarah Palin, but resulted in little legislative action other than passage of the state budget. Much of this session was spent deliberating about what to do with the budget,...
Bus saves friends' sojourn in Alaska - Atlanta Journal Constitution
By Anne Z. Cooke Even if bus trips were my style, I wouldn't have thought one the best way to see Alaska. Yet there we were in Anchorage, on the last night of a 10-day bus trip. Two weeks earlier, I'd been packing jeans and socks when the phone rang....

Alaska

Alaska superimposed over the contiguous United States

Alaska ( /əˈlæskə/ (help·info), Russian: Аляска Alyaska) is the largest state of the United States of America by area; it is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. As of 2007, Alaska remains the least densely populated state, with a population of 683,478 with approximately 50% residing along the Anchorage metropolitan areas.

The area that became Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire after Western Union discontinued construction of its first electric telegraph line which ran from California, up the coast of North America, across the Bering Strait, continuing to Moscow and into the European telegraph network. Despite $3 million in U.S. investment for the Russian-American telegraph expedition, work ceased upon the completion of the competing Transatlantic telegraph cable. The U.S. realized the potential of continuing the line to Moscow and sent Secretary of State William H. Seward to negotiate with the Russian Ambassador to fund the remaining phases of the telegraph line. Russia did not see the potential in funding, so Alaska was offered in exchange for the value of the Russian-American telegraph. The Russians feared that if they did not sell Russian North America, it would be taken from them by the westward expansion of the United States and Canada. They tried to play one potential purchaser off against the other to start a bidding war, but this was largely unsuccessful.

The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire 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 $111 million in today's 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.

Alaska has more coastline than all the other U.S. states combined. It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of British Columbia (Canada) separate Alaska from Washington state. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States. It is technically part of the continental U.S., but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of the contiguous U.S., often called "the Lower 48". Juneau, Alaska's capital city, though located on the mainland of the North American continent, is inaccessible by land—no roads connect Juneau to the rest of the North American highway system.

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 Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska's territorial waters touch Russia's territorial waters in the Bering Strait, though the Russian and Alaskan islands are almost 3 miles (4.8 km) apart.

Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at 570,380 square miles (1,477,277 km2), much larger than Texas, the next largest state. Geologists have identified Alaska as part of Wrangellia, a large region consisting of multiple states and Canadian provinces in the Pacific Northwest which is actively undergoing continent building. Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries.

Counting territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the combined area of the next three largest states: Texas, California, and Montana. 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 and North Carolina.

The northeast corner of Alaska is dominated by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers 19,049,236 acres (77,090 km2). Much of the northwest is covered by the larger National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, which covers around 23,000,000 acres (93,100 km2). The Arctic is Alaska's most remote wilderness. A location in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska is 120 miles (190 km) from any town or village, the geographic point most remote from permanent habitation on the US mainland. The Rat Islands region in the Western Aleutians is more than 200 miles (320 km) from the tiny settlements of Attu and Adak, and may be the loneliest place in the United States. In 1971 the U.S. exploded an atomic bomb underground here, on Amchitka Island.

With its myriad islands, Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,720 km) 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 an occasionally smoldering volcano that rises to 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above the North Pacific. It is the most perfect volcanic cone on Earth, even more symmetrical than Japan's Mount Fuji. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland. Alaska has the most volcanoes of any of the fifty US states.

Alaska has more than 3 million lakes. 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 (3,110 km2) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon, Canada, covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km2) alone. With over 100,000 of them, Alaska has half of the world's glacier's.

The International Date Line jogs west of 180° to keep the whole state, and thus the entire North American continent, 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. It is the World's largest wildlife Refuge, comprising 16 million acres (65,000 km2).

Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 101 million acres (410,000 km2); another 44 million acres (180,000 km2) are owned by 12 regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Thus, indirectly, the 84,000 Eskimo, Aleut and American Indian inhabitants of Alaska own one-ninth of the state. Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about 1% of the state.

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 in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is a mid-latitude oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) in the southern sections and a subarctic oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc) in the northern parts. On an annual basis, the panhandle 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 (1,270 mm) of precipitation a year, while other areas receive over 275 inches (6,990 mm). This is also the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter months.

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 gets less rain than southeast Alaska, it gets more snow, and days tend to be clearer. On average, Anchorage receives 16 inches (406 mm) of precipitation a year, with around 75 inches (1,905 mm) 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 10 inches (250 mm) of precipitation annually, while some locations between Dillingham and Bethel average around 100 inches (2,540 mm) 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 highest and lowest 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 10 inches (250 mm) 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 (which is just 8 miles (13 km) inside the arctic circle) on June 27, 1915, tied with Pahala, Hawaii as the lowest high temperature in the United States. The lowest official Alaska temperature is −80 °F (-62 °C) in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971, one degree above the lowest temperature recorded in continental 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 (1 °C). Precipitation is light in this part of Alaska, with many places averaging less than 10 inches (250 mm) 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. New Archangel on Kodiak Island was Alaska's first capital, but for a century under both Russia and the U.S. Sitka was the capital. 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. Alaska was loosely governed by the military for years, and was unofficially a territory of the United States from 1884 on.

In the 1890s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was granted official territorial status in 1912. At this time the capital was moved to Juneau.

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.

Statehood was approved in 1958. Alaska was officially proclaimed a state on January 3, 1959.

In 1964, the massive "Good Friday Earthquake" killed 131 people and destroyed several villages, many by the resultant tsunamis. It was the second most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the world, with a moment magnitude of 9.2. It was 100 times more powerful than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Luckily, the epicenter was in an unpopulated area or thousands more would have been killed.

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 over 11 million US gallons 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 United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2008, estimated Alaska's population at 686,293, which represents an increase of 59,362, or 9.5%, since the last census in 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 60,994 people (that is 86,062 births minus 25,068 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 5,469 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 4,418 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 9,887 people. In 2000 Alaska ranked 48th out of 50 states by population. Alaska is the least densely populated state, and one of the most sparsely-populated areas in the world, at 1.0 people per square mile (0.42/km²), with the next state, Wyoming, at 5.1 per square mile (1.97/km²). It is the largest U.S. state by area, and the 6th wealthiest (per capita income).

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 69.3% of single-race Alaska residents were caucasian and 15.6% were Native American or Alaska Native, the largest proportion of any state. Multiracial/Mixed-Race people are the third largest group of people in the state, totaling 6.9% of the population. The largest self-reported 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%).

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%), Filipino (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.

Alaska has been identified, along with Pacific Northwest states Washington and Oregon, as being the least religious in the U.S. According to statistics collected by the Association of Religion Data Archives, only about 39% of Alaska residents were members of religious congregations. Evangelical Protestants had 78,070 members, Roman Catholics had 54,359, and mainline Protestants had 37,156. After Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the largest single denominations are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons/LDS) with 29,460, Southern Baptists with 22,959, and Orthodox with 20,000. The large Eastern Orthodox (with 49 parishes and up to 50,000 followers, population is a result of early Russian colonization and missionary work among Alaska Natives. In 1795, the First Russian Orthodox Church was established in Kodiak. Intermarriage with Alaskan Natives helped the Russian immigrants integrate into society. As a result, more and more Russian Orthodox churches gradually became established within Alaska. Alaska also has the largest Quaker population (by percentage) of any state. In 2003 there were 3,000 Jews in Alaska (for whom observance of the mitzvah may pose special problems). Estimates for the number of Alaskan Muslims range from 2,000 to 5,000. Hindus are also represented through a number of temples and associations and adherents number over one thousand. Alaskan Hindus often share venues and celebrations with members of other religious communities including Sikhs and Jains.

The 2005 gross state product was $39.9 billion, 45th in the nation. 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 and on North America, typically producing about 400,000 barrels per day (64,000 m³/d). The Trans-Alaska Pipeline can pump up to 2.1 million barrels (330,000 m3) 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. The United States Geological Survey estimates that there are 85.4 trillion cubic feet (2,420 km3) of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas from natural gas hydrates on the Alaskan North Slope. 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 accounts for 1/5 (20%) of domestically produced United States oil production. Prudhoe Bay (North America's largest oil field) alone accounts for 8% of the United States domestic oil production.

The Alaska Permanent Fund is a legislatively controlled appropriation established in 1976 to manage a surplus in state petroleum revenues from the recently constructed Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. From its initial principal of $734,000, the fund has grown to $40 billion as a result of oil royalties and capital investment programs. Starting in 1982, dividends from the fund's annual growth have been paid out each year to eligible Alaskans, ranging from $331.29 in 1984 to $3,269.00 in 2008 (which included a one-time $1200 "Resource Rebate"). Every year, the state legislature takes out 8 percent from the earnings, puts 3 percent back into the principal for inflation proofing, and the remaining 5 percent is distributed to all qualifying Alaskans. To qualify for the Alaska State Permanent Fund one must have lived in the state for a minimum of 12 months, and maintain constant residency.

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. Federal government employees, particularly United States Postal Service (USPS) workers and active-duty military members, 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 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.

Due to the northern climate and steep terrain, relatively little farming occurs in Alaska. Most farms are in either the Matanuska Valley, about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Anchorage, or on the Kenai Peninsula, about 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Anchorage. The short 100-day growing season limits the crops that can be grown, but the long sunny summer days make for productive growing seasons. The primary crops are potatoes, carrots, lettuce, corn, and cabbage. Farmers exhibit produce at the Alaska State Fair. "Alaskan Grown" is used as an agricultural slogan.

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 expensive. 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 (80 km) southeast of Anchorage. At 2.5 miles (4.0 km) 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.

Built around 1915, the Alaska Railroad (ARR) played a key role in the development of Alaska through the 20th century. It links north Pacific shipping through providing critical infrastructure with tracks that run from Seward to Interior Alaska via South Central Alaska, passing through Anchorage, Eklutna, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks, with spurs to Whittier, Palmer and North Pole. The cities, towns, villages, and region served by ARR tracks are known statewide as "The Railbelt". In recent years, the ever-improving paved highway system began to eclipse the railroad's importance in Alaska's economy.

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 60 miles (100 km) 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 Columbia 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.

Most cities, towns and villages in the state do not have road or highway access; the only modes of access involve travel by air, river, or the sea.

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 that 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 many 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.

Another Alaskan transportation method is the dogsled. In modern times (that is, any time after the mid-late 1920s), 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 1150-mile (1850 km) trail from Anchorage to Nome (although the mileage varies from year to year, the official distance is set at 1049 miles). The race commemorates the famous 1925 serum run to Nome in which mushers and dogs like Togo and 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. The "Serum Run" is another sled dog race that more accurately follows the route of the famous 1925 relay, leaving from the community of Nenana (southwest of Fairbanks) to Nome.

President Dwight Eisenhower admitted in his autobiography that he pushed to have Alaska admitted into the union as a state, partially because he wanted an American win in the 1959 World Sled Dog Championships, held in Finland. The previous W.S.D.C. titles had been won by the Soviet Union.

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

Like all other U.S. states, Alaska is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: an executive branch consisting of the Governor of Alaska and the other independently elected constitutional officers; a legislative branch consisting of the Alaska House of Representatives and Alaska Senate; and a judicial branch consisting of the Alaska Supreme Court and lower courts.

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 has been characterized as a Republican-leaning state with strong libertarian tendencies. Local political communities have often worked on issues related to land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights. Alaska Natives, while organized in and around their communities, have been active within the Native corporations. These have been given ownership over large tracts of land, which require stewardship.

Alaska is the only state in which possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is completely legal under state law, though the federal law remains in force.

The state has possessed an independence movement favoring secession from the United States, with the Alaska Independence Party labeled as one of "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.

To finance state government operations, Alaska depends primarily on petroleum revenues and federal subsidies. This allows it to have the lowest individual tax burden in the United States, and be one of only five states with no state sales tax, one of seven states that do not levy an individual income tax, and one of two states that has neither. 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, 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.

In presidential elections, the state's electoral college votes have been won by the Republican nominee in every election since statehood, except for 1964. 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. Republican John McCain defeated Democrat Barack Obama in Alaska, 59.49% to 37.83%. McCain's running mate was Sarah Palin, the state's governor and the first Alaskan on a major party ticket. 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 19th consecutive term in 2008.

On November 19, 2008, Ted Stevens was defeated by Mark Begich, who was declared the winner of the election by virtue of having an insurmountable lead during the counting process. This loss also meant that the Senate Republican caucus could avoid the spectacle of having to throw out Stevens, its longest-serving member, following his conviction on seven felony corruption charges.

Republican Frank Murkowski held the state's other senatorial position. After being elected governor in 2002, he resigned from the Senate and 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.

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. A recording district is a mechanism for administration of the public record in Alaska. The state is divided into 34 recording districts which are centrally administered under a State Recorder. All recording districts use the same acceptance criteria, fee schedule, etc., for accepting documents into the public record.

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.

Alaska has many smaller towns, especially in the Alaska Bush, the portion of the state that is inaccessible by road.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development administers many school districts in Alaska. In addition, the state operates several boarding schools, including Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Nenana Student Living Center in Nenana, and Galena High School in Galena.

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.

Alaska residents have long had a problem with alcohol use and abuse. Many rural communities in Alaska have outlawed its import. This problem directly relates to Alaska's high rate of Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as well as contributing to the high rate of suicides and teenage pregnancies. Suicide rates for rural residents are higher than urban.

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

Some of Alaska's popular annual events are the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome, World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, the Alaska Hummingbird Festival in Ketchikan, the Sitka Whale Fest, and the Stikine River Garnet Fest in Wrangell. The Stikine River features the largest springtime concentration of American Bald Eagles in the world.

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.

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.

Influences on music in Alaska include the traditional music of Alaska Natives as well as folk music brought by later immigrants from Russia and Europe. Prominent musicians from Alaska include singer Jewel, traditional Aleut flautist Mary Youngblood, folk singer-songwriter Libby Roderick, metal/post hardcore band 36 Crazyfists and the group Pamyua.

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 official state song of Alaska is "Alaska's Flag", which was adopted in 1955; it celebrates the flag of Alaska.

Alaska's first independent picture all made on place was in the silent years. The Chechahcos, was released in 1924 by the Alaska Moving Picture Corp. It was the only film the company made.

One of the most prominent movies filmed in Alaska is MGM's Academy Award winning classic Eskimo/Mala The Magnificent starring Alaska's own Ray Mala. In 1932 an expedition set out from MGM's studios in Hollywood to Alaska to film what was then billed as "The Biggest Picture Ever Made." Upon arriving in Alaska, they set up "Camp Hollywood" in Northwest Alaska, where they lived during the duration of the filming. Louis B. Mayer spared no expense in making sure they had everything they needed during their stay -- he even sent the famous chef from the Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Blvd (the site of the first Oscars) with them to Alaska to cook for them. When Eskimo premiered at the famed Astor Theatre in Times Square, New York, the studio received the largest amount of feedback in the history of the studio up to that time. Eskimo was critically acclaimed and released worldwide; as a result Inupiat Eskimo actor Ray Mala became an international movie star. Eskimo is significant for the following: winning the very first Oscar for Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards, for forever preserving Inupiat culture on film, and for being the first motion picture to be filmed in an all native language (Inupiat).

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.

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Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake

The Alaska Highway (also known as the Alaskan Highway, Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN Highway) was constructed during World War II and connects the contiguous U.S. to Alaska through Canada. It runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon. Completed in 1943, it is 2,237 kilometres or 1,522 miles (2,449 km) long. The historic end of the highway is near milepost 1422, where it meets the Richardson Highway in Delta Junction, Alaska, about 160 km (100 mi) southeast of Fairbanks. Mileposts on the Richardson Highway are numbered from Valdez, Alaska. The Alaska Highway is popularly (but unofficially) considered part of the Pan-American Highway, which extends south to Argentina.

Proposals for a highway to Alaska originated in the 1920s. Donald MacDonald dreamed of an international highway spanning the United States, Canada and Russia. In order to promote the highway, Slim Williams originally traveled the proposed route by dog sled. Since much of the route would pass through Canada, support from the Canadian government was crucial. However, the Canadian government perceived no value in putting up the required funds to build the road, since the only part of Canada that would benefit was not more than a few thousand people in the Yukon.

However, some route consideration was given. The preferred route would pass through the Rocky Mountain Trench from Prince George, British Columbia to Dawson City before turning west to Fairbanks, Alaska.

The attack on Pearl Harbor and beginning of the Pacific Theatre in World War II, coupled with Japanese threats to the west coast of North America and the Aleutian Islands, changed the priorities for both nations. On February 6, 1942 the construction of the Alaska Highway was approved by the United States Army and the project received the authorization from the U.S. Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proceed five days later. Canada agreed to allow construction as long as the United States bore the full cost, and that the road and other facilities in Canada be turned over to Canadian authority after the war ended.

The official start of construction took place on March 8, 1942 after hundreds of pieces of construction equipment were moved on priority trains by the Northern Alberta Railways to the northeastern part of British Columbia near Mile 0 at Dawson Creek. Construction accelerated through the spring as the winter weather faded away and crews were able to work from both the northern and southern ends; they were spurred on after reports of the Japanese invasion of Kiska Island and Attu Island in the Aleutians. On September 24, 1942 crews from both directions met at Mile 588 at Contact Creek and the highway was dedicated on November 20, 1942 at Soldiers Summit.

The needs of war dictated the final route, intended to link the airfields of the Northwest Staging Route that conveyed lend-lease aircraft from the United States to the Soviet Union. Thus, the rather impractical, long route over extremely difficult terrain was chosen.

The road was originally built mostly by the US Army as a supply route during World War II. There were four main thrusts in building the route: southeast from Delta Junction, Alaska toward a linkup at Beaver Creek, Yukon; north then west from Dawson Creek (an advance group started from Fort Nelson, British Columbia after traveling on winter roads on frozen marshland from railway stations on the Northern Alberta Railways); both east and west from Whitehorse after being ferried in via the White Pass and Yukon Route railway. The U.S. Army commandeered equipment of all kinds, including local riverboats, railway locomotives, and housing originally meant for use in southern California.

Although it was completed on October 28, 1942 and its completion was celebrated at Soldier's Summit on November 21 (and broadcast by radio, the exact outdoor temperature censored due to wartime concerns), the "highway" was not usable by general vehicles until 1943. Even then, there were many steep grades, a poor surface, switchbacks to gain and descend hills, and few or no guardrails. Bridges, which progressed during 1942 from pontoon bridges to temporary log bridges, were replaced with steel bridges where necessary only. One old log bridge can still be seen at the Aishihik river crossing. The easing of the Japanese invasion threat resulted in no more contracts being given to private contractors for upgrading of specific sections.

In particular, some 100 miles (160 km) of route between Burwash Landing and Koidern, Yukon, became virtually impassable in May and June of 1943, as the permafrost melted, no longer protected by a layer of delicate vegetation. A corduroy road was built to restore the route, and corduroy still underlays old sections of highway in the area. Modern construction methods do not allow the permafrost to melt, either by building a gravel berm on top or replacing the vegetation and soil immediately with gravel. However, the Burwash-Koidern section is still a problem, as the new highway built there in the late 1990s continues to experience frost heave.

The pioneer road completed in 1942 was approximately 1,680 miles (2,700 km) from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction. The army then turned the road over to the Public Roads Administration of Washington, which then began putting out section contracts to private road contractors to upgrade selected sections of the road. These sections were upgraded, with removal of excess bends and steep grades; often, a traveler could identify upgraded sections by seeing the telephone line along the PRA-approved route alignment. When the Japanese invasion threat eased, the PRA stopped putting out new contracts. Upon hand-off to Canada in 1946, the route was 1,422 miles (2,288 km) from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction.

The route follows a northwest then northward course from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson. On October 16, 1957, a suspension bridge crossing the Peace River just south of Fort St. John collapsed. A new bridge was built a few years later. At Fort Nelson, the road turns west and crosses the Rocky Mountains, before resuming a westward course at Coal River. The highway crossed the Yukon-BC border nine times from Mile 590 to Mile 773, six of those crossings were from Mile 590 to Mile 596. After passing the south end of Kluane Lake, the highway follows a north-northwest course to the Alaska border, then northwest to the terminus at Delta Junction.

Postwar rebuilding has not shifted the highway more than ten miles (16 km) from the original alignment, and in most cases, by less than three miles (5 km). It is not clear if it still crosses the Yukon-BC border six times from Mile 590 to Mile 596.

The original agreement between Canada and the United States regarding construction of the highway stipulated that its Canadian portion be turned over to Canada six months after the end of the war. This took place on April 1, 1946 when the US Army transferred control of the road through the Yukon and British Columbia to the Canadian Army, Northwest Highway System. The Alaskan section was completely paved during the 1960s; largely gravel even in 1981, the Canadian portion of the Alaska Highway is now completely paved, mostly with bituminous surface treatment.

The Milepost, an extensive guide book to the Alaska Highway and other highways in Alaska and Northwest Canada, was first published in 1949 and continues to be published annually as the foremost guide to travelling the highway.

The British Columbia government owns the first 82.6 miles (132.9 km) of the highway, the only portion paved during the late 1960s and 1970s. Public Works Canada manages the highway from Mile 82.6 (km 133) to Historic Mile 630. The Yukon government owns the highway from Historic Mile 630 to Historic Mile 1016 (from near Watson Lake to Haines Junction), and manages the remainder to the U.S. border at Historic Mile 1221. The State of Alaska owns the highway within that state (Mile 1221 to Mile 1422).

Extensive rerouting in Canada has shortened the highway by approximately 35 miles (55 km) since 1947, mostly by eliminating winding sections and sometimes by bypassing residential areas. Therefore, the historic milepost markings are no longer accurate but are still important locally as location references. Some old sections of the highway are still in use as local roads, while others are left to deteriorate and still others are ploughed up. Four sections form local residential streets in Whitehorse (3... see map) and Fort Nelson (1), and others form country residential roadways outside of Whitehorse. Although Champagne, Yukon was bypassed in 2002, the old highway is still completely in service for that community until a new direct access road is built.

Rerouting continues, expected to continue in the Yukon through 2009, with the Haines Junction-Beaver Creek section covered by the Canada-U.S. Shakwak Agreement. The new Donjek River bridge was opened 26 September 2007, replacing a 1952 bridge. Under Shakwak, U.S. federal highway money is spent for work done by Canadian contractors who win tenders issued by the Yukon government. The Shakwak Project completed the Haines Highway upgrades in the 1980s between Haines Junction and the Alaska Panhandle, then funding was stalled by Congress for several years.

The Milepost shows the Canadian section of the highway now to be approximately 1,187 miles (1,910 km), but the first milepost inside Alaska is 1222. The actual length of the highway inside Alaska is no longer clear because rerouting, as in Canada, has shortened the route, but unlike Canada, mileposts in Alaska are not recalibrated. The B.C. and Yukon governments and Public Works Canada have recalibrated kilometreposts only as far as a point just at the southeast shore of Kluane Lake, with the latest BC recalibration in 1990 and the only Yukon recalibrations in 2002 and 2005 (based on the distance value where the BC calibration of 1990 left off).

There are historical mileposts along the B.C. and Yukon sections of the highway, installed in 1992, that note 83 specific locations, although the posts no longer represent accurate driving distance.

The portion of the Alaska Highway in Alaska is Alaska Route 2. In the Yukon, it is Highway 1 and in British Columbia, Highway 97.

For people interested in learning more about the history of the Alaska Highway there are several books on its construction.

The Canadian section of the road was delineated with mileposts, based on the road as it was in 1947, until 1978, and over the years, reconstruction steadily shortened the distance between some of those mileposts. That year, metric signs were placed on the highway, and the mileposts were replaced with kilometre posts at the approximate locations of a historic mileage of equal value, e.g. Kmpost 1000 was posted approximately where historical Mile 621 would have been posted.

Reconstruction continues to shorten the highway, but the kilometre posts, at two-km intervals, were recalibrated along the B.C. section of road in 1990 to reflect then-current driving distance. The section of highway covered by the 1990 recalibration has since been rendered shorter by further realignments, such as near Summit Pass and between Muncho Lake and Iron Creek.

Based on where those values left off, new Yukon kilometre posts were erected in fall 2002 between the B.C. border and the west end of the new bypass around Champagne, Yukon; in 2005, additional recalibrated posts continued from there to the east shore of Kluane Lake near Silver City. Old kilometre posts, based on the historic miles, remain on the highway from that point around Kluane Lake to the Alaska border. The B.C. and Yukon sections also have a small number of historic mileposts, printed on oval-shaped signs, at locations of historic significance; these special signs were erected in 1992 on the occasion of the highway's 50th anniversary.

The Alaska portion of the highway is still marked by mileposts at one-mile (1.6 km) intervals, although they no longer represent accurate driving distance, due to reconstruction.

The historic mileposts are still used by residents and businesses along the highway to refer to their location, and in some cases are also used as postal addresses.

Residents and travellers, and the government of the Yukon, do not use "east" and "west" to refer to direction of travel on the Yukon section, even though this is the predominant bearing of the Yukon portion of the highway; "north" and "south" are used, referring to the south (Dawson Creek) and north (Delta Junction) termini of the highway. This is an important consideration for travellers who may otherwise be confused, particularly when a westbound travel routes southwestward or even due south to circumvent a natural obstacle such as Kluane Lake.

Some B.C. sections west of Fort Nelson also route more east-to-west, with southwest bearings in some section; again, "north" is used in preference to "west".

Other former segments have deteriorated and are no longer usable. More recent construction projects have deliberately ploughed up roadway to close it.

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History of Alaska

Flag of Alaska

The history of Alaska dates back to the end of the Upper Paleolithic Period (around 12,000 BC), when Asiatic groups crossed the Bering Land Bridge into what is now western Alaska. At the time of European contact by the Russian explorers, the area was populated by Alaska Native groups. The name "Alaska" derives from the Aleut word alaxsxaq, (an Archaic spelling being alyeska), meaning "mainland" (literally, "the object toward which the action of the sea is directed").

In the 1890s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was granted territorial status in 1912.

In 1942, three of the outer Aleutian Islands—Attu, Agattu and Kiska—were occupied by the Japanese and their recovery for the U. S. became a matter of national pride. The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.

Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959.

In 1964, the massive "Good Friday Earthquake" killed 131 people and leveled several villages.

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 and 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.

Paleolithic families moved into northwestern North America sometime between 16,000 and 10,000 BC across the Bering Land Bridge in western Alaska. Alaska became populated by the Inuit and a variety of Native American groups. Today, early Alaskans are divided into several main groups: the Southeastern Coastal Indians (the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian), the Athabascans, the Aleut, and the two groups of Eskimos, the Inupiat and the Yup'ik.

The coastal migrants from Asia were probably the first wave of humans to cross the Bering Land Bridge in western Alaska, and many of them initially settled in the interior of what is now Canada. The Tlingit were the most numerous of this group, claiming most of the coastal Panhandle by the time of European contact and are the northernmost of the group of advanced cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast renowned for its complex art and political systems and the ceremonial and legal system known as the potlatch. The southern portion of Prince of Wales Island was settled by the Haidas fleeing persecution by other Haidas from the Queen Charlotte Islands (now part of British Columbia). The Aleuts settled the islands of the Aleutian chain approximately 10,000 years ago.

Cultural and subsistence practices varied widely among Native groups, who were spread across vast geographical distances.

After the second Kamchatka expedition, small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of Siberia towards the Aleutian islands. As the runs from Siberia to America became longer expeditions, the crews established hunting and trading posts. By the late 1790s, these had become permanent settlements.

On some islands and parts of the Alaska Peninsula, groups of traders had been capable of relatively peaceful coexistence with the local inhabitants. Other groups could not manage the tensions and perpetrated exactions. Hostages were taken, individuals were enslaved, families were split up, and other individuals were forced to leave their villages and settle elsewhere. Over the years, the situation became catastrophic. Eighty percent of the Aleut population was destroyed by Old World diseases, against which they had no immunity, during the first two generations of Russian contact.

Though the colony was never very profitable, most Russian traders were determined to keep the land. In 1784, Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island. Shelikov established Russian dominance on the island by killing hundreds of indigenous Koniag, then founded the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska on the island's Three Saints Bay.

In 1790, Shelikhov hired Alexandr Baranov to manage his Alaskan fur enterprise. Baranov moved the colony to what is now the city of Kodiak. In 1795, Baranov, concerned by the sight of non-Russian Europeans trading with the Natives in southeast Alaska, established Mikhailovsk near present-day Sitka. Though he bought the land from the Tlingits, Tlingits from a neighboring settlement later attacked and destroyed Mikhailovsk. After Baranov retaliated, razing the Tlingit village, he built the settlement of New Archangel. It became the capital of Russian America and today is the city of Sitka.

The Russian Orthodox religion (with its rituals and sacred texts, translated into Aleut at a very early stage) had been informally introduced, in the 1740s-1780s, by the fur traders. During his settlement of Three Saints Bay in 1784, Shelikov introduced the first resident missionaries and clergymen. This missionary activity would continue into the 1800s, ultimately becoming the most visible trace of the Russian colonial period in contemporary Alaska.

Spanish claims to Alaska dated to the papal bull of 1493, which allocated to the Spanish the right to colonize the west coast of North America. When rival countries, including Britain and Russia, began to show interest in Alaska in the late 18th century, King Charles III of Spain sent a number of expeditions to re-assert Spanish claims to the northern Pacific Coast of North America, including Alaska.

In 1775, Bruno de Hezeta led an expedition designed to solidify Spanish claims to the northern Pacific. One of the expedition's two ships, the Señora, ultimately reached 59°N latitude, entering Sitka Sound near the present-day town of Sitka, Alaska. There, the Spaniards performed numerous "acts of sovereignty," naming and claiming Puerto de Bucareli (Bucareli Sound), Puerto de los Remedios, and Mount San Jacinto, renamed Mount Edgecumbe by British explorer James Cook three years later.

In 1790, Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo led an expedition that included visits to the sites of today's Cordova, Alaska and Valdez, Alaska, where acts of sovereignty were performed. Fidalgo went as far as today's Kodiak Island, visiting the small Russian settlement there. Fidalgo then went to the Russian settlement at Alexandrovsk (today's English Bay or Nanwalek, Alaska), southwest of today's Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, where again, Fidalgo re-asserted the Spanish claim to the area by conducting a formal ceremony of sovereignty.

In 1791, Alessandro Malaspina undertook an around-the-world scientific expedition, with orders to locate the Northwest Passage and search for gold, precious stones, and any American, British, or Russian settlements along the northwest coast. He surveyed the Alaska coast to the Prince William Sound. At Yakutat Bay, the expedition made contact with the Tlingit.

In the end, the North Pacific rivalry proved to be too difficult for Spain, which withdrew from the contest and transferred its claims and obligations in the region to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. Today, Spain's Alaskan legacy endures as little more than a few place names, among these the Malaspina Glacier and the town of Valdez.

British settlements at the time in Alaska consisted of a few scattered trading outposts, with most settlers arriving by sea. Captain James Cook, midway through his third and final voyage of exploration in 1778, sailed along the west coast of North America aboard the HMS Resolution, from then-Spanish California all the way to the Bering Strait. During the trip, he discovered what came to be known as Cook Inlet (named in honor of Cook in 1794 by George Vancouver, who had served under his command) in Alaska. The Bering Strait proved to be impassable, although the Resolution and its companion ship HMS Discovery made several attempts to sail through it. The ships left the straits to return to Hawaii in 1779.

Cook's expedition spurred the British to increase their sailings along the northwest coast, following in the wake of the Spanish. Alaska-based posts owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, operated at Fort Yukon, on the Yukon River, Fort Durham (aka Fort Taku) at the mouth of the Taku River, and Fort Stikine, near the mouth of the Stikine River (associated with Wrangell throughout the early 1800s.

In 1799, Shelikhov's son-in-law, Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov, acquired a monopoly on the American fur trade from Czar Paul I and formed the Russian-American Company. As part of the deal, the Tsar expected the company to establish new settlements in Alaska and carry out an expanded colonization program.

By 1804, Alexandr Baranov, now manager of the Russian–American Company, had consolidated the company's hold on the American fur trade following his victory over the local Tlingit clan at the Battle of Sitka. Despite these efforts the Russians never fully colonized Alaska. The Russian monopoly on trade was also being weakened by the Hudson's Bay Company, which set up a post on the southern edge of Russian America in 1833.

American fur traders, who encroached on territory claimed by Russians, were also becoming a force. An 1812 settlement giving Americans the right to the fur trade only below 55°N latitude was widely ignored, and the Russians' hold on Alaska weakened further.

The Russian-American Company suffered because of 1821 amendments to its charter, and eventually it entered into an agreement with the Hudson's Bay Company that allowed the British to sail through Russian territory.

At the height of Russian America, the Russian population reached 700.

Although the mid–1800s were not a good time for Russians in Alaska, conditions improved for the coastal Alaska Natives who had survived contact. The Tlingits were never conquered and continued to wage war on the Russians into the 1850s. The Aleuts, though faced with a decreasing population in the 1840s, ultimately rebounded.

Financial difficulties in Russia, the desire to keep Alaska out of British hands, and the low profits of trade with Alaskan settlements all contributed to Russia's willingness to sell its possessions in North America. At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000. (approximately $90,750,000 in 2005 dollars, adjusted for inflation) on April 9, 1867. This purchase was popularly known in the U.S. as "Seward's Folly," or "Seward's Icebox," and was unpopular at the time, though the later discovery of gold and oil would show it to be a worthwhile one.

After Russian America was sold to the U.S., all the holdings of the Russian–American Company were liquidated.

The United States flag was raised on October 18, 1867 (now called Alaska Day). Coincident with the ownership change, the de facto International Date Line was moved westward, and Alaska changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, for residents, Friday, October 6, 1867 was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867—two Fridays in a row because of the date line shift.

During the Department era, from 1867 to 1884, Alaska was variously under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army (until 1877), the United States Department of the Treasury (from 1877 until 1879) and the U.S. Navy (from 1879 until 1884).

When Alaska was first purchased, most of its land remained unexplored. In 1865, Western Union laid a telegraph line across Alaska to the Bering Strait where it would connect, under water, with an Asian line. It also conducted the first scientific studies of the region and produced the first map of the entire Yukon River. The Alaska Commercial Company and the military also contributed to the growing exploration of Alaska in the last decades of the 1800s, building trading posts along the Interior's many rivers.

In 1899, gold was found in Alaska itself in Nome, and several towns subsequently began to be built, such as Fairbanks and Ruby. In 1902, the Alaska Railroad began to be built, which would connect from Seward to Fairbanks by 1914, though Alaska still does not have a railroad connecting it to the lower 48 states today. Still, an overland route was built, cutting transportation times to the contiguous states by days. The industries of copper mining, fishing, and canning began to become popular in the early 1900s, with 10 canneries in some major towns.

In 1903, a boundary dispute with Canada was finally resolved.

By the turn of the 20th century, commercial fishing was gaining a foothold in the Aleutian Islands. Packing houses salted cod and herring, and salmon canneries were opened. Another traditional occupation, whaling, continued with no regard for over-hunting. They pushed the bowhead whales to the edge of extinction for the oil in their tissue. The Aleuts soon suffered severe problems due to the depletion of the fur seals and sea otters which they needed for survival. As well as requiring the flesh for food, they also used the skins to cover their boats, without which they could not hunt. The Americans also expanded into the Interior and Arctic Alaska, exploiting the furbearers, fish, and other game on which Natives depended.

When Congress passed the Second Organic Act in 1912, Alaska was reorganized, and renamed the Territory of Alaska. By 1916, its population was about 58,000. James Wickersham, a Delegate to Congress, introduced Alaska's first statehood bill, but it failed due to the small population and lack of interest from Alaskans. Even President Warren G. Harding's visit in 1923 could not create widespread interest in statehood. Under the conditions of the Second Organic Act, Alaska had been split into four divisions. The most populous of the divisions, whose capital was Juneau, wondered if it could become a separate state from the other three. Government control was a primary concern, with the territory having 52 federal agencies governing it.

Then, in 1920, the Jones Act required U.S.-flagged vessels to be built in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and documented under the laws of the United States. All goods entering or leaving Alaska had to be transported by American carriers and shipped to Seattle prior to further shipment, making Alaska dependent on Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Constitution saying one state should not hold sway over another's commerce did not apply because Alaska was only a territory. The prices Seattle shipping businesses charged began to rise to take advantage of the situation. This situation created an atmosphere of enmity among Alaskans who watched the wealth being generated by their labors flowing into the hands of Seattle business holdings.

The Depression caused prices of fish and copper, which were vital to Alaska's economy at the time, to decline. Wages were dropped and the workforce decreased by more than half. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought Americans from agricultural areas could be transferred to Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley for a fresh chance at agricultural self-sustainment. Colonists were largely from northern states, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota under the belief that only those who grew up with climates similar to that of Alaska's could handle settler life there. The United Congo Improvement Association asked the president to settle 400 African-American farmers in Alaska, saying that the territory would offer full political rights, but racial prejudice and the belief that only those from northern states would make suitable colonists caused the proposal to fail.

The exploration and settlement of Alaska would not have been possible without the development of the aircraft, which allowed for the influx of settlers into the state's interior, and rapid transportation of people and supplies throughout. However, due to the unfavorable weather conditions of the state, and high ratio of pilots-to-population, over 1700 aircraft wreck sites are scattered throughout its domain. Numerous wrecks also trace their origins to the military build-up of the state during both World War II and the Cold War.

During World War II, three of the outer Aleutian Islands—Attu, Agattu and Kiska—were invaded and occupied by Japanese troops. They were the only part of the continental territory of the United States to be occupied by the enemy during the war. Their recovery became a matter of national pride.

On June 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an air attack on Dutch Harbor, a U.S. naval base on Unalaska Island, but were repelled by U.S. forces. A few days later, the Japanese landed on the islands of Kiska and Attu, where they overwhelmed Attu villagers. The villagers were taken to Japan, where they were interned for the remainder of the war. Aleuts from the Pribilofs and Aleutian villages were evacuated by the United States to Southeast Alaska.

Attu was regained in May 1943 after two weeks of intense fighting and 3,929 American casualties. The U.S. then turned its attention to the other occupied island, Kiska. From June through August, tons of bombs were dropped on the tiny island, though the Japanese ultimately escaped via transport ships. After the war, the Native Attuans who had survived their internment were resettled to Atka by the federal government, which considered their home villages too remote to defend.

In 1942, during World War II the Alaska–Canada Military Highway was completed, in part to form an overland supply route to America's Russian allies on the other side of the Bering Strait. Running from Great Falls, Montana, to Fairbanks, the road was the first stable link between Alaska and the rest of America. The construction of military bases, such as the Adak base, contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities. Anchorage almost doubled in size, from 4,200 people in 1940 to 8,000 in 1945.

By the turn of the 20th century, a movement pushing for Alaska statehood began, but in the contiguous 48 states, legislators were worried that Alaska's population was too sparse, distant, and isolated, and its economy was too unstable for it to be a worthwhile addition to the United States. World War II and the Japanese invasion highlighted Alaska's strategic importance, and the issue of statehood was taken more seriously, but it was the discovery of oil at Swanson River on the Kenai Peninsula that dispelled the image of Alaska as a weak, dependent region. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into United States law on July 7, 1958, which paved the way for Alaska's admission into the Union on January 3, 1959. Juneau, the territorial capital, continued as state capital, and William A. Egan was sworn in as the first governor.

Alaska has no counties, as do other states, except for Louisiana which has parishes, in the United States. Instead, it is divided into 16 boroughs and one "unorganized borough" made up of all land not within any borough. Boroughs have organized area-wide governments, but within the unorganized borough, where there is no such government, services are provided by the state. The unorganized borough is divided into artificially-created census areas by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only.

On March 27, 1964 the "Good Friday Earthquake" struck South-central Alaska, churning the earth for four minutes with a magnitude of 9.2. The earthquake was one of the most powerful ever recorded and killed 139 people. Most of them were drowned by the tsunamis that tore apart the towns of Valdez and Chenega. Throughout the Prince William Sound region, inadequately engineered towns and ports were destroyed and land was uplifted or shoved downward. The uplift destroyed salmon streams, as the fish could no longer jump the various newly created barriers to reach their spawning grounds. Ports at Valdez and Cordova were beyond repair, and the fires destroyed what the mudslides had not. At Valdez, an Alaska Steamship Company ship was lifted by a huge wave over the docks and out to sea, but most hands survived. At Turnagain Arm, off Cook Inlet, the incoming water destroyed trees and caused cabins to sink into the mud. On Kodiak, a tidal wave wiped out the villages of Afognak, Old Harbor, and Kaguyak and damaged other communities, while Seward lost its harbor. Despite the extent of the catastrophe, Alaskans rebuilt many of the communities.

The 1968 discovery of oil on the North Slope's Prudhoe Bay--which would turn out to have the most recoverable oil of any field in the United States-- would change Alaska's political landscape for decades.

This discovery catapulted the issue of Native land ownership into the headlines. In the mid-1960s, Alaska Natives from many tribal groups had united in an effort to gain title to lands wrested from them by Europeans, but the government had responded slowly before the Prudhoe Bay discovery. The government finally took action when permitting for a pipeline crossing the state, necessary to get Alaskan oil to market, was stalled pending the settlement of Native land claims.

In 1971, with major petroleum dollars on the line, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon. Under the Act, Natives relinquished aboriginal claims to their lands in exchange for access to 44 million acres (180,000 km²) of land and payment of $963 million. The settlement was divided among regional, urban, and village corporations, which managed their funds with varying degrees of success.

Though a pipeline from the North Slope to the nearest ice-free port, almost 800 miles (1,300 km) to the south, was the only way to get Alaska's oil to market, significant engineering challenges lay ahead. Between the North Slope and Valdez, there were active fault lines, three mountain ranges, miles of unstable, boggy ground underlain with frost, and migration paths of caribou and moose. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was ultimately completed in 1977 at a total cost of $8 billion.

The pipeline allowed an oil bonanza to take shape. Per capita incomes rose throughout the state, with virtually every community benefiting. State leaders were determined that this boom would not end like the fur and gold booms, in an economic bust as soon as the resource had disappeared. In 1976, the state's constitution was amended to establish the Alaska Permanent Fund, in which a quarter of all mineral lease proceeds is invested. Income from the fund is used to pay annual dividends to all residents who qualify, to increase the fund's principal as a hedge against inflation, and to provide funds for the state legislature. Since 1993, the fund has produced more money than the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, whose production is diminishing. In March 2005, the fund's value was over $30 billion.

Oil production was not the only economic value of Alaska's land, however. In the second half of the 20th century, Alaska discovered tourism as an important source of revenue. Tourism became popular after World War II, when men stationed in the region returned home praising its natural splendor. The Alcan Highway, built during the war, and the Alaska Marine Highway System, completed in 1963, made the state more accessible than before. Tourism became increasingly important in Alaska, and today over 1.4 million people visit the state each year.

With tourism more vital to the economy, environmentalism also rose in importance. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 added 53.7 million acres (217,000 km²) to the National Wildlife Refuge system, parts of 25 rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system, 3.3 million acres (13,000 km²) to National Forest lands, and 43.6 million acres (176,000 km²) to National Park land. Because of the Act, Alaska now contains two-thirds of all American national parklands. Today, more than half of Alaskan land is owned by the Federal Government.

The possible environmental repercussions of oil production became clear in the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. On March 24, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, releasing 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water, spreading along 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of shoreline. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at least 300,000 sea birds, 2,000 otters, and other marine animals died because of the spill. Exxon spent US$2 billion on cleaning up in the first year alone. Exxon, working with state and federal agencies, continued its cleanup into the early 1990s. Government studies show that the oil and the cleaning process itself did long-term harm to the ecology of the Sound, interfering with the reproduction of birds and animals in ways that still aren't fully understood. Prince William Sound seems to have recuperated, but scientists still dispute the extent of the recovery. In a civil settlement, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million in ten annual payments, plus an additional $100 million for newly discovered damages. In a class action suit against Exxon, a jury awarded punitive damages of US$5 billion, but as of 2008 no money has been disbursed and appellate litigation continues.

Today, the tension between preservation and development is seen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) drilling controversy. The question of whether to allow drilling for oil in ANWR has been a political football for every sitting American president since Jimmy Carter. Studies performed by the US Geological Survey have shown that the "1002 area" of ANWR, located just east of Prudhoe Bay, contains large deposits of crude oil. Traditionally, Alaskan residents, trade unions, and business interests have supported drilling in the refuge, while environmental groups and many within the Democratic Party have traditionally opposed it. Among native Alaskan tribes, support is mixed. In the 1990s and 2000s, votes about the status of the refuge occurred repeatedly in the U.S. House and Senate, but as of 2007 efforts to allow drilling have always been ultimately thwarted by filibusters, amendments, or vetoes.

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Source : Wikipedia