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Unorganized Borough, Alaska

The Unorganized Borough is made up of the portions of the U.S. state of Alaska which are not contained in any of its 19 organized boroughs. It encompasses nearly half of Alaska's land area, 323,440 square miles (837,700 km2), an area larger than any other U.S. state, and larger than the land area of the smallest 16 states combined. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, it had a population of 81,803, which was 13% of the population of the state.

Unorganized Borough
Nenana Depot
Map of Alaska highlighting Unorganized Borough
Location within the U.S. state of Alaska
Map of the United States highlighting Alaska
Alaska's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 57°30′N 156°42′W / 57.5°N 156.7°W / 57.5; -156.7
Country United States
State Alaska
SeatNone
Largest communityBethel
Area
 • Total323,440 sq mi (837,700 km2)
Population
 (2000)
 • Total81,803
Time zoneUTC−9 (Alaska)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−8 (ADT)

OverviewEdit

Unique among the United States, Alaska is not entirely subdivided into organized county equivalents. To facilitate census-taking in the vast unorganized area, the United States Census Bureau, in cooperation with the state, divided the unorganized borough into 11 census areas, beginning with the 1970 Census. The Petersburg Census Area was made a borough in 2013, leaving 10 census areas in the Unorganized Borough:

This vast area has no local government other than that of school districts and municipalities within its limits. Many of the villages do have tribal governments, however. Except within some incorporated cities, all government services in the Unorganized Borough, including law enforcement, are provided by the state or by a tribal government. School districts in the Unorganized Borough are operated either by cities, in those limited instances when the city has chosen to undertake those powers, or through the general guidance of the state Department of Education under the auspices of Rural Education Attendance Areas.

HistoryEdit

During the 1950s, when the push for the territory of Alaska to become a state was at its height, any municipal government was extremely limited and scattered. Territory-wide, there were no more than a few dozen incorporated cities, and a small handful of service districts, broken into public utility districts and independent school districts. The service districts were authorized by the territorial legislature in 1935 to allow unincorporated areas limited powers to provide services and to raise taxes for them.

The United States Congress had forbidden the territory from establishing counties.[1] The delegates of the convention which wrote the Alaska Constitution had, in fact, debated the merits of establishing counties, and had rejected the idea in favor of creating a system of boroughs, both organized and unorganized.

The intent of the framers of the constitution was to provide for maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government units and tax-levying jurisdictions. The minutes of the constitutional convention indicate that counties were not used as a form of local government for various reasons. The failure of some local economies to generate enough revenue to support separate counties was an important issue, as was the desire to use a model that would reflect the unique character of Alaska, provide for maximum local input, and avoid a body of county case law already in existence.

Instead, Alaska adopted boroughs as a form of regional government. This regionalization tried to avoid having a number of independent, limited-purpose governments with confusing boundaries and inefficient governmental operations. The territorial service districts had amounted to this much[clarification needed], but were seen by many as an important foundation for the government to provide services without becoming all-powerful and unnecessarily intrusive, an argument which surfaced time and again during various attempts by the legislature to create organized boroughs out of portions of the unorganized borough.

Alaska adopted the borough structure by statute in 1961, and envisioned boroughs to serve as an "all-purpose" form of local government, to avoid the perceived[by whom?] problems of county government in the lower 48 states as well as Hawaii. According to Article X of the Alaska Constitution, areas of the state unable to support borough government were to be served by several unorganized boroughs, which were to be mechanisms for the state to regionalize services; however, separate unorganized boroughs were never created. The entire state was defined as one vast unorganized borough by the Borough Act of 1961, and over the ensuing years, Alaska's organized boroughs were carved out of it.

Alaska's first organized borough, and the only one incorporated immediately after passage of the 1961 legislation, was the Bristol Bay Borough. The pressure from residents of other areas of the state to form boroughs led to the Mandatory Borough Act of 1963, which called for all election districts in the state over a certain minimum population to incorporate as boroughs by January 1, 1964.

A resolution of the State of Alaska's Local Boundary Commission introduced in January 2009 spells this out in greater detail:

Furthermore, 21 Rural Education Attendance Areas were established by the Legislature in 1975. This created regional divisions of the unorganized borough for the purpose of establishing rural school districts. Many REAAs were later absorbed into organized boroughs.

Regional Educational Attendance AreasEdit

There are 19 Regional Educational Attendance Areas in the unorganized borough.[3]

Regional name Headquarters REAA or Borough School Locations Notes
Alaska Gateway Tok Dot Lake
Eagle
Northway
Tanacross
Tetlin
Northeast central Alaska area
Aleutian Region Adak
Atka
Nikolski (closed)


Annette Island Metlakatla
Bering Straits Unalakleet Norton Sound
Elim
Golovin
Koyuk
Saint Michael
Shaktoolik
Stebbins
White Mountain

Seward Peninsula

Brevig Mission
Shishmaref
Teller
Wales

Saint Lawrence Island

Gambell
Savoonga


Chatham Angoon Gustavus Elfin Cove (closed), Cube Cove (closed)
Chugach Chenega Bay
Tatitlek
Whittier
Copper River Glennallen Kenny Lake
Slana


Chistochina (closed), Copper Center (closed), Gakona (closed), Nelchina (closed)


Delta/Greely Delta Junction Gerstle River Healy Lake (closed), Fort Greely (closed)


Iditarod McGrath Anvik
Grayling
Holy Cross
Nikolai
Shageluk
Takotna
Lake Minchumina (closed), Lime Village (closed)


Kuspuk Aniak Crooked Creek
Chuathbaluk
Lower Kalskag
Sleetmute
Stony River
Upper Kalskag
Red Devil (closed)
Lower Kuskokwim Nunivak Island
Mekoryuk
Lower Yukon Mountain Village Alakanuk
Emmonak
Hooper Bay
Kotlik
Marshall
Nunam Iqua
Pilot Station
Russian Mission
Scammon Bay
Pitkas Point (closed)
Pribilof Islands Saint Paul Saint George (closed)


Southeast Island Coffman
Hollis


Kasaan
Naukati


Port Alexander


Thorne Bay
Whale Pass
Edna Bay (closed), Port Protection (closed)



Southwest Region Aleknagik Clark's Point
Ekwok
Koliganek
Manokotak
New Stuyahok
Togiak
Twin Hills
Portage Creek (closed)
Yukon Flats Fort Yukon Arctic Village
Beaver
Chalkyitsik
Circle
Rampart
Stevens Village
Venetie
Birch Creek (closed), Central (closed)



Yukon-Koyukuk Allakaket
Hughes
Huslia
Kaltag
Koyukuk


Manley Hot Springs
Minto
Nulato
Ruby
Bettles (closed)
Yupiit (Akiachak, Akiak, Tuluksak) Akiachak Akiak
Atmautluak
Bethel
Chefornak
Eek
Goodnews Bay
Kasigluk
Kipnuk
Kongiganak
Kwethluk
Kwigillingok
Napakiak
Napaskiak
Newtok
Nightmute
Nunapitchuk
Oscarville
Platinum
Quinhagak
Toksook Bay
Tuluksak
Tuntutuliak
Tununak
Kashunamiut (Chevak) Chevak


Dispute over future mandatory boroughsEdit

A number of boroughs have been incorporated since the Mandatory Borough Act, but most (the primary examples being North Slope, Northwest Arctic, and Denali) were incorporated to exploit a significant potential source of taxation, such as natural resource extraction and tourism.

Many residents of the Unorganized Borough, particularly those in the larger communities which may be most susceptible to organized borough incorporation, have been vociferously opposed to such incorporation, and say the status quo suits them just fine. Many point out that they would already live in an organized borough if they desired that lifestyle and the level of government which comes with it.

On the other hand, many Alaskans residing in organized boroughs feel that they unfairly subsidize residents of the Unorganized Borough, especially for education. In 2003, the Alaska Division of Community Advocacy identified eight areas within the Unorganized Borough meeting standards for incorporation.[4] Bills have been introduced in the Alaska Legislature to compel these areas to incorporate, though as of 2009, none have been signed into law.

Major communitiesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Governing Alaska: The Territory of Alaska". Alaska History and Cultural Studies. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  2. ^ The document on Valdez municipal website
  3. ^ "Alaska School Map" (PDF). Alaska education. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  4. ^ "Legislative Direct for Unorganized Borough Review". Alaska Department of Commerce. Archived from the original on December 1, 2005. Retrieved December 1, 2005.

External linksEdit