to Offer Postwar Pioneers?
In the next generation, Alaska will be called upon to play a key
role as a focal point for world airways and as a vital military and naval bastion.
Alaska is a key to the defense of the United States and Canada and to our own
A straight line drawn through St. Paul or Minneapolis
to Tokyo cuts through the heart of Alaska. The air route between Chicago and Chungking
via Alaska is 4,300 miles shorter than the San Francisco-Hawaii-Manila route.
Already in military use is a United States-Moscow airway via Alaska. The time
is probably not far distant when direct hops can be made from Fairbanks over the
North Pole to London, Stockholm, and Paris. An international highway, which runs
from South America to Alaska, offers a combined land and air route for the Latin
American countries, the United States, Canada, and Alaska, and an air route on
to USSR, the Orient, and Europe. An extension of the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks
to Nome is within the realm of possibility. Lying in narrow Bering Strait, Big
and Little Diomede Islands bring Asia and America only 3.5 miles apart. A ferry
system, or perhaps a bridge, could link South America with Europe via Siberia.
present, however, no highway exists from Fairbanks to Nome, and the Alaska Highway
from Canada, built by a miracle of engineering in 1942, traverses unoccupied territory
and is as yet little more than a rough service road linking a series of airports.
Needed for the adequate development and defense of Alaska, some experts say, is
a railroad to supplement sea steamship lanes and the Highway, capable of moving
from .the States to Alaska 1.0,000 tons per day. Others, however, question the
dollars-and-cents value of such a railroad. A survey for such a project, which
would link the Canadian National Railway to the Alaskan Railroad, has already
In the face of enthusiasts dreams of Alaska as a key
point on world airways, linked with the rest of the United States by highways,
airways, and railroads, Alaskas rich present seems modest indeed. Maska,
occupying a geographical position on the American continent roughly equivalent
to that of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, and with an area exceeding these
countries combined, supports a population of less than 100,000 as compared with
There is an excess of shipments out of Alaska over shipments
into the Territory. In 1940 Alaska shipped to the States commodities valued at
$59,000,000, receiving commodities valued at $48,000,000 in exchange. The balance
of $11,000,000 was small as compared with other years. In the 1930s over
a ten-year period Alaska shipped to the States 63 per cent of its total trade
and received back from the States 37 per cent. Salmon and gold together accounted
for 22 per cent of the value of the goods shipped out of Alaska.
the keys to Alaskas future, as discussed by economists, are:
today produces only about 2.5 per cent of the food it eats. With a larger farming
population and a good development of modern agriculture, it is estimated that
the Territory could raise one-third or more of the total food requirements of
90,000 residentsalthough certain types of food, of course, would always
have to be imported. A local market amounting to several million dollars a year
It is estimated that southeastern Alaska
could support a pulp and paper industry producing about one million tons a year.
This would support about 35,000 people at a good standard of living and add a
third major industry to the two present ones of fishing and mining. Lumbering
and wood processing could be further developed. A growing industry is entertaining,
sheltering, and transporting Alaskas visitors and local vacationists. Water
power is available in great quantity for future industries in many areas. A possibility
for future generations is bringing together Alaska and British Columbia coal,
iron, and limestone to supply the Pacific coast with the iron and steel it lacks
Predictions as to the number of visitors to
Alaska in the years after the war are still largely in the realm of crystal gazing.
If the Alaska Highway is ever conditioned for ordinary passenger trafficnot
a likely prospect in the immediate futuremany thousands of visitors might
tour overland to Alaska each season. Other visitors will come by steamship and
air line. In recent peace years, Alaskas white population almost doubled
in summer with the addition of tourist traffic. If this trend continues or increases,
transportation systems within Alaska will have to be enlarged, modernized, and
the rates made cheaper.
Alaskas dependence on extractive
industries has made it rely on outside capital, with absentee ownership, for development
of industry, transportation, and services. Comparatively few funds are plowed
back into local development. Alaskas governor has urged a revision
of the tax structure.
While Alaska can probably never
be as thickly populated as its Scandinavian counterparts, all observers agree
that the Territory could comfortably support a much larger population than that
of today. The real wealth of Alaska, and its real future, will lie not in its
fish, minerals, animals, soil, or forests, but in its peopleAmericans who
are Alaskans today and those who will become Alaskans tomorrow.
to the problems discussed above, there are a number of others which lie in the
political domain to be settled only by public discussion and legislation. Will
means of transportation developed in wartime, such as the Alaska Highway, and
military equipmenttractors and bulldozers, for examplebe put to peacetime
use? Or will they be written off as war costs and left to decay? Will the coastwise
shipping acts and customs regulations be amended to reduce the barrier between
Canada and the United States? What proportion of the cost of maintaining international
airways and highways will be borne by the governments concerned? Will immigration
to Alaska from Europe be encouraged, and from what countries? What special provision
will be made for servicemen wishing to settle in Alaska? What will be land leasing
and homesteading policies? Will large military and naval installations be maintained
in Alaska? How can Alaska progress toward statehood and economic self-sufficiency
without losing safeguards against dangerous depletion of her resources?
To the Leader