Transcription

Economics 300: The Economy of AlaskaNOTES: INTRODUCTION TO ALASKA GEOGRAPHYby Gunnar KnappUpdated January 16, 2005These notes provide a brief introduction to features of Alaska geography which areimportant for understanding Alaska’s economy. The maps—from a number of differentsources—show Alaska from a variety of different perspectives.Six Alaska RegionsAlaska is a very large state. There are very significant differences between different partsof Alaska in climate, terrain, natural resources, human settlement, the transportationsystems, and so on. As a result, it is useful to distinguish between different geographicregions of Alaska.A useful way to do this is to think of Alaska in terms of the six major regions shown inthe map below: Southeast, Southcentral, Interior, Arctic, Northwest, and Southwest.There are significant differences between these regions with respect to climate, naturalresources, Native cultures, population, types of economic activity, and so on.Source: Thomas Morehouse, ed., Alaska Resources Development: Issues for the 1980s(Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1984), page 7.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 1

Alaska TopographyAlaska has several very large mountain ranges, which provide fabulous scenery andrecreational opportunities but represent major barriers to land transportationdevelopment. The most important mountain ranges are the Alaska Range, which includesDenali (Mt. McKinley); the Brooks Range (which extends across most of NorthernAlaska; the Coast Range (along the Canadian border in southeast Alaska); the Chugachmountains east of Anchorage extending north of Prince William Sound; and the WrangellSt. Elias mountains (in the eastern part of southcentral Alaska). Most kinds of economicdevelopment or settlement is impossible or impractical in these mountainous areas.Brooks RangeAlaska RangeWrangell-St. astRangeSource: Marjorie Hermans, Alaska in Maps: A Thematic Atlas (Alaska GeographicSociety, 2003).Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 2

Alaska Climate: PrecipitationThe wettest parts of Alaska are along the coast of southeast and southcentral Alaska,parts of which receive more than 200 inches of rain per year. By way of comparison,Anchorage typically receives less than 20 inches of precipitation per year (note thansnowfall is converted to the equivalent rainfall). The driest part of Alaska is the NorthSlope (the name for the area north of the Brooks Range), which typically receives lessthan 10 inches of rain per year.Downloaded January 16, 2005 from theOregon Climate Service tion/Total/States/AK/ak ppt in.gifEconomics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 3

Alaska RiversAlaska’s most important river is the Yukon River, which flows from British Columbiaand the Yukon Territory into Alaska, and then across Alaska to the Yukon River Delta onthe Bering Sea. Prior to completion of the Alaska Railroad in the 1920s, the Yukon Riverwas a major transportation route for bringing people and freight to Interior Alaska. Itremains very important for travel and fishing for the people in the many Nativecommunities located along the river.Second in importance to the Yukon river is the Kuskokwim River, which flows throughwestern Alaska past Bethel into the Bering Sea.The area of southwestern Alaska near the mouths of both of these rivers is known as theYukon-Kuskokwim Delta or simply the “Y-K Delta.” This region is inhabited by YupikEskimos and Yupik culture remains very strong in numerous small Native villages.Historically, the Copper River was an important travel route from the Interior to thecoast. In the 1910s, the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad was built along theCopper River to access the Kennecott copper mines.YukonRiverCopperRiverKuskokwimRiverSource: Marjorie Hermans, Alaska in Maps: A Thematic Atlas (Alaska GeographicSociety, 2003).Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 4

PermafrostMuch of Alaska is underlain by permafrost—frozen ground--which may be eithercontinuous (everywhere) or discontinuous (just in some places). Permafrost adds verysignificantly to the cost of construction of roads, buildings, pipelines, etc., because if thepermafrost is disturbed in may melt. Buildings in areas of permafrost are often built onpilings to keep the heat of the building from melting the permafrost.Temperatures have been increasing in Alaska in recent years, as in many parts of theworld. Melting permafrost could result in significant maintenance problems for roads,powerlines, pipelines and buildings.Source: Marjorie Hermans, Alaska in Maps: A Thematic Atlas (Alaska Geographic Society, 2003).Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 5

Alaska Native CulturesAlaska is home to many different Native groups. This map shows languages spokenhistorically by different groups. Some of these languages now have very few speakers;others—in particular Central Yup’ik and Inupiaq—continue to be spoken by thousands ofpeople.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 6

Surface Transportation SystemAlaska’s road system is very limited. The main roads are those that connect Homer,Kenai, Seward, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Glennallen and Valdez. The entire western half ofthe state is not connected to the rest of the road system and has only a few roads leadingout of Nome and to the Red Dog Mine (north of Kotzebue). Southeast Alaska has veryfew roads, except for a fairly extensive road system (not shown on this map) on Prince ofWales Island, west of Ketchikan, developed in connection with timber logging.Roads are expensive to build and to maintain in Alaska due to its topography (majormountain ranges, rivers, glaciers and permafrost) and climate (in particular winterfreezing).The Alaska Railroad is an important transportation link between Seward, Anchorage andFairbanks. The Marine Highway (state ferry) system is an important transportation link,particularly in Southeast Alaska. Air travel is of major importance everywhere in Alaska,but particularly in western, interior and northern Alaska. Coastal and river shipping isvery important for freight transport, but is limited to the ice-free summer season inwestern, northern and interior Alaska.Source: Marjorie Hermans, Alaska in Maps: A Thematic Atlas (Alaska GeographicSociety, 2003).Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 7

Air TransportationThis map shows major air routes of Alaska Airlines—by far the largest air carrieroperating in Alaska—as well as two smaller instate airlines (ERA and Penair). AlaskaAirlines and several other carriers off jet service to major regional centers includingCordova, Kodiak, King Salmon, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue,and Barrow, as well as Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan in Southeast.From these towns, regional carriers fly smaller planes to most Alaska omics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 8

Alaska Census AreasFor purposes of collecting and reporting economic and social Alaska data, Alaska isdivided into 27 “census areas.” These census areas are shown in the map below. Most ofthe regional economic data that we will use in the course is reported for these censusareas.”Most of the census area names are intuitive—they are based on a geographic feature(Denali), a geographic location (North Slope), or a community (Sitka). The exception isthe “Wade Hampton” census area in western Alaska, which happens to be named for aConfederate general from the Civil War.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 9

Alaska Political SubdivisionsMost states are divided into counties, which have authority to raise various kinds of taxes,issue bonds, and provide various regional local government services such as local roadsand schools.Rather than being fully divided into counties, Alaska is partially divided into “boroughs,”as shown in the map below. These boroughs are roughly equivalent to counties in otherstates in the services that they provide. Boroughs play in important role in the Alaskaeconomy because they have the right to levy property taxes. Some Boroughs—mostimportantly the North Slope Borough—raise very large revenues from property taxes onresource developments.Large parts of Alaska are verysparsely settled and do not havesufficient population or economicresources to fund or provide for alocal government. These partshave not been organized intoboroughs. They are called the“Unorganized Borough,” as shownin the map to the left.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 10

Alaska Election DistrictsAlaska election districts are drawn so as to include approximately similar populations foreach House district and for each Senate district, and to group “similar” areas together.Because the Alaska populations is concentrated in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley,Fairbanks and Juneau, most legislators are from these urban areas. Some rural electiondistricts, such as in the Interior, are very large.This map shows election districts as of 2002.Source: Downloaded January 15, 2005 from www.AlaskaLegislature.com/maps. This isa web site sponsored by the Juneau Empire with information about the Alaskalegislature.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 11

Alaska Land OwnershipMost Alaska lands are owned either by the federal government (59%), the stategovernment (28%), or Alaska Native Corporations (12%). (These corporations wereestablished under the Alaska Native Lands Claims Settlement Act of 1971, or ANCSA.Their share holders are Alaska Natives.) Only about 1% of Alaska is in other privateownership.At the time Alaska became a state in 1959, almost all Alaska land was owned by thefederal government. Under the Statehood act, the State of Alaska was entitled to selectlands equal to 28% of the land area of Alaska from lands owned by the federalgovernment, except for those federal lands reserved for special purposes such as NationalParks and National Forests.Under ANCSA, Native Corporations were was entitled to select lands equal to 12% ofthe land area of Alaska from lands owned by the federal government, except for thosealready selected by the State or reserved for special purposes such as National Parks andNational Forests.The map below shows Alaska land ownership as of 2000. Lands in grey are state lands;lands in dark blue are Native corporation lands.Source: Teresa Hull and Linda Leask, “Dividing Alaska, 1867-2000: Changing LandOwnership and Management,” Anchorage, University of Alaska Institute of Social andEconomic Research.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 12

ANCSA Corporation RegionsUnder the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA), Alaska was dividedinto twelve regions. The act established a regional Native corporation for each of theseregions. The map below shows the regions and the names of the corresponding Nativecorporations.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 13

Alaska Parks and PreservesAs shown in this map, large parts of Alaska are set aside as National Parks and Preserves,national wildlife refuges, or state parks. Economic development activities such aslogging and mining are typically restricted or banned on these lands. However, they offersignificant potential for future tourism development.Downloaded January 16, 2005from the website of the AlaskaPublic Lands Information Center,http://www.nps.gov/aplic/.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 14

Federal Subsistence ManagementLand ownership affects who has authority to manage fish and wildlife in Alaska. As aresult of a long-running dispute with the State over subsistence management, the federalgovernment now manages subsistence hunting and fishing on federal lands and federalwaters.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 15

Alaska’s Strategic LocationAlaska’s location at the center of the North Pacific and adjacent to the Russian Far Eastand the Arctic Ocean has since World War II made Alaska an important location for U.S.military facilities, including air force bases, radar early warning facilities, army bases,and most recently for missile defense installations.Source: Google EarthAlaska is located roughly halfway between the United States and the major East Asianmarkets of Japan, China and Korea. This gives Alaska a very favorable location as arefueling stop for air cargo flights between the United States and Asia, which has beencritical to the development of Alaska’s important and growing air cargo industry.Over the longer term, if the Arctic Ocean ice pack continues to shrink as the globalclimate warms, the Arctic Ocean could become a major shipping route, greatly reducingshipping costs from Alaska to Europe.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 16

How Does Geography Affect Alaska’s Economy?Alaska’s geography—its location, climate, topography, and resources—have drivenAlaska’s economy in the past and create and constrain its opportunities for the future. Iwould suggest the following as the four most important ways in which Alaska’sgeography affects Alaska’s economy.1. Alaska’s geography adds to costs, making it difficult for Alaska to compete with otherregions in most economic activities. Alaska’s remoteness from major markets, coldclimate, mountainous topography, permafrost, and relatively undeveloped transportationsystem make Alaska a relatively costly place for many economic activities comparedwith other parts of the world—particularly more northern and more remote parts ofAlaska. Alaska’s climate means that some activities are only possible on a seasonal basis.In a global economy, higher costs constrain Alaska’s ability to compete in most economicactivities except for: Those supplying goods or services to world markets in which Alaska has anoffsetting economic advantage—such as natural resources or a strategic location Those supplying goods or services to Alaskans (retail trade, health care, etc.)which have to be based in Alaska.2. Alaska’s natural resources—oil, gas, minerals, fisheries, wildlife, timber, and(increasingly) its wilderness and natural beauty—provide opportunities for a wide varietyof resource-based industries.3. Alaska’s geographic location with respect to the rest of the world gives Alaska asignificant competitive advantage for two key industries: defense and transportation.4. Alaska is a very large state, with significant differences between different regions inclimate, terrain, natural resources, human settlement, the transportation systems, and soon. These regional geographic differences lead to important differences in economicactivity and economic opportunities for different regions of Alaska.Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 17

Source Alaska Airlines Inflight Magazine. Economics 300: Economy of Alaska, Notes-Introduction to Alaska Geography, page 9 Alaska Census Areas For purposes of collecting and reporting economic and social Alaska data, Alaska is divided into 27 “cens