From Sitka to Seward: The Department of State's Impact on Alaska

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Mountains with a valley and a lake, with the words #State4States and Alaska
#State4States: The Department of State has direct impact on the state of Alaska

From Sitka to Seward: The Department of State's Impact on Alaska

The State Department's work benefits the American people by advancing U.S. national security, promoting our economic interests, providing services, and reaffirming our country’s exceptional role in the world. This work directly impacts the state of Alaska as it continues to live up to its motto:  “North to the Future.”   

Alaska’s role in American diplomacy dates back to 1867, when U.S. Secretary of State William Henry Seward negotiated its purchase from Russia. This purchase was an important step in the rise of the United States as a great power in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The United States has been an Arctic nation with important interests in the region since the purchase of Alaska. At the time of the purchase, national security and economic development were key U.S. interests.  While this remains true today, significant changes in the international political arena, environmental, scientific and technological developments, and increasing global interdependence have created new opportunities for the United States and other Arctic nations. 

From April 2015 to May 2017, the United States held the two-year rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the premier forum for Arctic diplomacy. As chair of the council, Alaska hosted international working group meetings in Anchorage, Nome, Fairbanks, and other locations throughout the state. During those meetings, State Department officials from the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) emphasized U.S. Arctic policy priorities. The priorities included meeting U.S. national security needs, protecting the Arctic environment and conserving its living resources, ensuring environmentally-sustainable natural resource management and economic development, strengthening institutions for cooperation, and involving the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them. 

The State Department's work also has a direct impact on Alaska’s economy. Participation by OES in the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Pacific Salmon Commission helps Alaska reap the economic benefits of commercial fisheries as well as substantial economic activity in the sport and recreational fishing sectors. The Pacific Salmon Commission estimates that the total economic output of salmon fisheries, both commercial and recreational, in Alaska is over $800 million and supports over 6,500 full time jobs. The 2019 Pacific Halibut Commission’s annual meeting will be held in Victoria, British Columbia, and will ensure the maintenance of sustainable populations of fish and harvest opportunities for U.S. stakeholders. 

From economic issues to environmental policy, the Department of State continues to engage with and impact Alaska, bringing about fear-reaching benefits for the people of Alaska, the United States, and our Arctic partners.

Find out more about the Department of State's impact in American communities at Department of State by State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium. 

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