History of Alaska
The U.S. State of Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of the union on January 3rd, 1959. It currently ranks as the largest of all fifty states and 48th largest in population. Alaska is one of the two only states not connected to the mainland United States of America.
The United States purchased the territory in 1867. At the time, the Russian Empire owned the territory, since it shared a close maritime border with the country just across the Bering Strait. The United States agreed to purchase it on March 30th, 1867 for the mere price of nearly 2 cents an acre. The capital of Juneau is connected to the mainland continent of North America, but is not connected in any way to the United States highway system.
Although there is some speculation as to when Alaska was first settled, it is generally believed among historians that the first European vessel to land along the shores of the massive peninsula occurred in 1732 by Russian explorers. After these explorers returned home with the pelts of sea otters and other wildlife, much interest was taken in the territory with the first European settlement being established in 1784.
When the territory was purchased by the United States nearly one hundred years later, it was considered a major purchase. It served as a strategic jump-off point in the pacific and was valuable to the Allied war effort during World War II. Oil was eventually struck at Prudhoe Bay in 1967 and became a major cog in the wheel of Alaska’s economy.
Present – Alaska
In 2015, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population of Alaska to be 738,432. It is the third least populated state in the United States and the most sparsely populated when comparing population to landmass. The largest city is Anchorage, Alaska, followed by Fairbanks, and Juneau.
Alaska currently boasts one of the highest costs of living in the entire country due to its seclusion from the mainland United States and its lack of critical infrastructure. Rural citizens often struggle for goods and commodities due to the lack of critical transportation infrastructure to get goods and services to them in a timely manner.
In addition, due to its geographical location, it is quite difficult for farmers to produce large yields of crops. Lack of sunlight and persistent cold throughout the growing season make effective agriculture a difficulty. Much of the states produce needs to be imported from the mainland United States.
Politics of Alaska
Alaska only has one representative in the United States House of Representatives due to its relatively small population. Don Young is the Republican representative for the State of Alaska. He was first elected in 1973 and stands as the longest serving representative in history for the state of Alaska. In addition, he is the longest current serving member of the House of Representatives. Both of Alaska’s federal Senators are from the Republican Party. The governor of Alaska, Bill Walker is an independent and has been in office since 2014.
Due to its dependent on the Federal government to provide subsidies to the state, Alaska has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country. It also uses its petroleum industry to help maintain a positive fiscal budget. Although there are significant environmental concerns with the petroleum industry that Alaska has built over the last several decades, it seems that it will continue to use its oil deposits to the state’s advantage.
Alaska Government Links:
- Governor: Bill Walker
- Attorney General: Jahna Lindemuth
- Department of Environmental Conservation
- Department of Natural Resources