Alaskan Development

December 17, 1976

Report Outline
Pressures of Far-Reaching Change
Slow Progress of Past Development
Major Questions Facing the State
Special Focus

Pressures of Far-Reaching Change

Alaska means “the great land.” It is indeed a state of superlatives, Alaska is larger than the next three largest states combined. It has more timber, water and copper than the rest of the United States. There may be as much oil and natural gas in Alaska and off its coasts as in all the other 49 states. Alaska has three million lakes, several major river systems, a dozen peaks higher than any other American mountains, and numerous mammoth glaciers. Alaska's fish, wildlife, plants and flowers are abundant and many are unique to the state. Yet most of Alaska still is wilderness—of the state's 375 million acres only about 100,000 acres now are taken up by cities, towns, villages, roads or other marks of human activity. It has the fewest people of any state (405,000) and the most land per resident (925 acres).

Alaska today is a state of change and turmoil. The trans-Alaska oil pipeline—perhaps the largest private construction project ever undertaken—is nearly finished, and it already has altered Alaska profoundly. The pipeline has brought millions of dollars and thousands of people to the state, creating a “boom” atmosphere unseen since the gold rush days. It remains to be seen if a “bust” will follow. There are several competing plans to build another pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to carry its enormous natural gas reserves to market (see p. 947). If the “haul road” that parallels the oil pipeline north of the Yukon River is opened up to the public, the northern half of the state will be significantly affected (see map). As for the southern part of the state, Alaskans voted in November to move their capital from Juneau, in the southeastern panhandle, to a new site near the tiny town of Willow, just north of Anchorage and nearer the bulk of the state's population. On the site, a new city will be built so the capital can be moved by 1980.

Much of Alaska's 586,000 square miles of land also is un-dergoing change of ownership. When Alaska became a state in 1959, more than 99 per cent of the land was owned by the federal government. Today the government is in the midst of a corn-plicated process of turning some land over to the residents of the state and setting aside other lands for preservation as national parks or monuments, national forests, wildlife refuges, scenic reserves or for other purposes. Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, passed by Congress five years ago, 40 million acres are to be turned over to the state's Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians; up to 80 million additional acres will be set aside in the national interest. This process is to be completed by December 1978, and a myriad of difficult questions remain to be decided (see p. 936).

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oil and Gasoline Prices
Jun. 22, 2012  U.S. Oil Dependence
Nov. 01, 2011  Future of the Gulf States
Jan. 04, 2008  Oil Jitters Updated
Jul. 2007  Energy Nationalism
Sep. 30, 2005  Domestic Energy Development
Jan. 24, 2003  Oil Diplomacy
Aug. 07, 1998  Oil Production in the 21st Century
Aug. 23, 1991  Oil Imports
Oct. 30, 1987  Persian Gulf Oil
Apr. 04, 1986  Oil Prices
Dec. 23, 1983  Quest for Energy Independence
Sep. 23, 1983  OPEC: 10 Years After the Arab Oil Boycott
May 29, 1981  Western Oil Boom
Aug. 25, 1978  Oil Imports
Feb. 10, 1978  Oil Antitrust Action
Dec. 17, 1976  Alaskan Development
May 17, 1974  Arab Oil Money
Mar. 15, 1974  Oil Taxation
Jul. 18, 1973  Offshore Oil Search
Mar. 28, 1973  Persian Gulf Oil
Nov. 01, 1972  Gasoline Prices
Oct. 14, 1970  Fuel Shortages
Nov. 12, 1969  Alaskan Oil Boom
Dec. 11, 1968  Oil Shale Development
Oct. 26, 1960  World Oil Glut
Sep. 10, 1958  Middle East Oil
Oct. 30, 1951  Oil Nationalization
Aug. 11, 1950  Oil Imports
Apr. 23, 1947  Oil of the Middle East
Jan. 22, 1946  Offshore Oil
Mar. 09, 1944  Oil Supply
Dec. 24, 1935  Oil in World Politics
May 07, 1931  Control of Production in the Oil Industry
Mar. 27, 1929  The Oil Leasing Policy of the New Administration
Jun. 08, 1927  Oil Conservation and Stabilization
Feb. 08, 1926  The Mexican Land and Petroleum Laws
Apr. 18, 1925  The Price of Gasoline
Feb. 11, 1924  Background of the Oil Lease Cases
Sep. 01, 1923  Gasoline
Oil and Natural Gas
Regional Planning and Urbanization
State, Local, and Intergovernmental Relations