United States - Alaska

One of the last truly wild places in the United States, Alaska is famous for its glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, vast forests and snow-covered mountains.

As the largest state in the US, it is not surprising that some of the country’s largest animals live here – grizzly and polar bears, moose, caribou, bison and bald eagles. Alaska is the only US state to have coastlines on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Here one finds dolphins, porpoise, seals, sea lions, fur seals, walrus, sea otters and whales.

Although Alaska is one of the most pristine environments in the world, parts of the state are affected by air and water pollution. Oil spills are also a concern, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 that devastated the Alaskan coast and wildlife. There is also an ongoing debate on whether or not to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.
Fishing boat in the early moring in August, off the coast of Unalaska Island near Dutch Harbor, ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Kevin SCHAFER
Fishing boat in the early moring in August, off the coast of Unalaska Island near Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
© WWF-Canon / Kevin SCHAFER

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • Excluding offshore production, Alaska ranks second in the US in crude oil production.
  • Alaska’s electricity infrastructure differs from the lower 48 States in that most consumers are not linked to large interconnected grids through transmission and distribution lines; rural communities rely primarily on diesel electric generators for power.
  • Natural gas fuels around three-fifths of Alaska’s electricity generation, and hydroelectric power supplies more than one-fifth. More than 50 hydroelectric power plants supply Alaskan communities. Alaska’s renewable energy sources also include a 200-kilowatt geothermal plant at Chena Hot Springs and two small wind farms in the rural areas of Healy and Kotzebue.
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Recycling
  • Almost all recycling in Anchorage and other cities in Alaska is done through drop-off locations.
 
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Transport
  • Most cities, towns and villages in Alaska do not have road or highway access; the only modes of access involve travel by air, river, or the sea.
  • The Alaska Railroad has two main trains: the Coastal Classic carries passengers between Anchorage, Girdwood and Seward; and the Denali Star connects Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Fairbanks.
  • A number of ferries operate around the state. The main areas for ferry service are the Inside Passage and the northern Gulf of Alaska - monthly service connects Juneau with southcentral Alaska and southcentral with the Aleutian Islands.
  • A unique way to get around is by dogsled, although dog mushing has become more of a sport than a true means of transportation.
  • Cyclists can ride up the Alaska Highway and then across Alaska. Anchorage has 320 kilometres of bike trails.
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Food
  • Salmon is one of the most important foods in Alaska; it often served smoked.
  • While not sold commercially, hunted wild game, including moose, caribou, elk and bear, are found in many Alaskan homes.
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Souvenirs
  • Popular tourist souvenirs sold in Alaska include native Alaskan handicrafts made from wildlife parts. Although it is legal to buy such authentic handicrafts, it is not recommended to buy the following products that are not considered an Alaskan native handicraft: polar bear rugs, raw skins and skin pieces of polar bear, uncarved or unaltered walrus ivory, whale baleen and products made from sea otter.
  • If you take wildlife or wildlife products (products, parts, and derivatives) with you when you travel by land between Alaska and the rest of the US, you need to be aware of US and Canadian laws and regulations that govern the import and export of wildlife. Permits may be required.
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Green Spots
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Covering more than 7.7 million hectares of wilderness in northeast Alaska, the refuge protects a greater variety of plant and animal life than any other protected area in the Arctic Circle. Best known are the polar, grizzly and black bear as well as wolf, wolverine, Dall sheep, moose, muskox, and the animal that has come to symbolize the area’s wildness, free-roaming caribou.
  • Denali National Park: Home to Mt Denali (6194m), North America’s highest peak, the park and preserve cover 2.4 million hectares of mountains, glaciers and sub-Arctic wilderness. Here, one finds such large mammals as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose as well as wolf, lynx, marmots and many other species.
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park: Located north of the Arctic Circle, the 3 million-hectare park and the 384,000-hectare adjacent preserve is the second largest protected area in the US national park system. Gates of the Arctic is a tundra wilderness of broad valley and the high peaks of the Brooks ranger. It is known for its large populations of arctic caribou, grizzly bears, moose and wolves.
  • Tongass National Forest: Covering more than 6.8 million hectares, Tongass is the largest national forest in the US. Home to eagles, bears and spawning salmon, it includes the many forested islands of southeast Alaska and surrounds the cities of Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau, Alaska’s capital.
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Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the above information. However, WWF makes no warranties, expressed or implied, regarding errors or omissions and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use.
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