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Today’s Alaska boroughs did not always exist in the present form. They went through many different changes in the space of a few short years.
Territory of Alaska Boroughs
The Territory of Alaska was organized on August 24, 1912. The territory was previously the Department of Alaska, 1868-1884; and the District of Alaska, 1884-1912.
The State of Alaska entered the union as the 49th state on January 3, 1959.
Alaska Boroughs Today
Today, Alaska is divided into 19 Organized boroughs, 1 Unorganized Borough and 10 Census areas. States bordering Alaska are Canada.
Most of the densely populated regions of the state are part of Alaska’s boroughs, which function similar to counties in other states.
However, unlike county equivalents in the other 49 states, the organized boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state. The area not part of any organized borough is referred to as the Unorganized Borough.
For the most part, organized boroughs were formed in those areas where economies were better developed. The large portion of the state that has not incorporated as an organized borough is designated the unorganized borough.
What is a Borough?
Use of the term “borough” was a controversial part of Alaska’s Constitutional plan and debated at length by the delegates. It was adopted largely to avoid legal and political connotations of the traditional county.
Alaska’s boroughs were intended to be more versatile and powerful than counties. The failure of some local economies to generate enough revenue to support separate counties was an important issue.
The desire to use a model that would reflect the unique character of Alaska was another.
The primary difference between boroughs and census areas is that boroughs have an organized area-wide government, while census areas do not.
The entire area of the state outside of organized boroughs is treated as one large unorganized borough.
In addition, census areas are not defined by the State, but rather by the United States Census Bureau.
Consolidated City-Borough’s of Alaska
There are 6 consolidated city-borough governments:
- Municipality of Anchorage. (considered a consolidated city-borough under state law)
- Juneau City and Borough
- Skagway Municipality
- Sitka City and Borough
- Yakutat City and Borough
- Wrangell City and Borough
Fun Facts about Alaska Boroughs
Alaska is not divided into counties but rather into organized and the so-called unorganized borough. Organized boroughs are similar to counties, however, and each of the such units are supervised by a small assembly.
The unorganized borough includes more than 80% of the state’s area but less than 20% of its population. It is administered by the state government; for statistical purposes it is divided into census areas (divisions).
Boroughs by Year
- Bristol Bay Borough was the first of Alaska’s boroughs created on October 2, 1962.
- Petersburg Borough was the last borough created on January 3, 2013.
Borough Size Facts
- Unorganized Borough (323,440 sq mi) is the largest borough in Alaska.
- North Slope Borough (88,817 sq mi) is the largest named borough in Alaska.
- Municipality and Borough of Skagway (452 sq mi) is the smallest borough in Alaska.
Borough Population Facts
- City and Borough of Yakutat (662) is the least populated borough in Alaska.
- Municipality of Anchorage (291,826) is the most populated borough in Alaska.
Alaska City Facts
Alaska’s 10 largest cities (2010.) are:
- Anchorage (291,826) is in Anchorage Borough
- Fairbanks (31,535) is in Fairbanks North Star Borough
- Juneau (31,275) is in Juneau Borough
- Sitka (8,881) is in Sitka Borough
- Ketchikan (8,050) is in Ketchikan Gateway Borough
- Wasilla (7,831) is in Matanuska-Susitna Borough
- Kenai (7,100) is in Kenai Peninsula Borough
- Kodiak (6,130) is in Kodiak Island Borough
- Bethel (6,080) is in Bethel Census Area
- Palmer (5,937) is in Matanuska-Susitna Borough
Boundary Changes of Alaska Boroughs
This Interactive Map of Alaska Boroughs Coming Soon!
List of Alaska Boroughs
|County||Created||Created From||Named For||Borough Seat||Notes|
|Aleutians East Borough||23 Oct 1987||Its location in the east Aleutian Islands|
|Anchorage City-Borough||01 Jan 1964||Anchorage Borough formed in 1964, merged with city in 1975 to form unified city-borough||A safe place to anchor and unload supplies for construction of the Alaska Railroad circa 1913|
|Bristol Bay Borough||02 Oct 1962||Named in 1778 by Capt. James Cook for George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol.|
|Denali Borough||07 Dec 1990||From Denali mountain, which means “great one” in the Dena’ina language|
|Fairbanks North Star Borough||01 Jan 1964||Named for Charles Fairbanks (1852 – 1918), U.S. Senator from Indiana and vice president under Theodore Roosevelt|
|Haines Borough||29 Aug 1968||Named for Mrs. F.E. Haines, the key fundraiser for the construction of a Presbyterian mission in the town.|
|Juneau City-Borough||30 Sep 1963||The cities of Juneau and Douglas merged with the surrounding borough to form the municipality||Joseph “Joe” Juneau, prospector and co-founder of the city.|
|Kenai Peninsula Borough||01 Jan 1964||The Kenai Peninsula, whose name may be derived from Kenayskaya, the Russian name for Cook Inlet.|
|Ketchikan Gateway Borough||06 Sep 1963||The borough seat of Ketchikan and the borough’s gateway location on the Alaska-Canada border.|
|Kodiak Island Borough||24 Sep 1963||Named after Kodiak Island, which may itself be named for the Koniag people|
|Lake and Peninsula Borough||24 Apr 1989||The borough’s many large lakes, and the Alaska Peninsula|
|Matanuska-Susitna Borough||01 Jan 1964||Named for the valley that the Matanuska and Susitna Rivers form|
|North Slope Borough||02 Jul 1972||The Alaska North Slope along the Brooks Range.|
|Northwest Arctic Borough||02 Jun 1986||In 1986, residents of Kotzebue and 10 other area villages voted to form the Northwest Arctic Borough (with boundaries coincident with those of NANA), to be economically based on taxing the Red Dog mine, then under development.||Its geographic location and position above the Arctic Circle.|
|Petersburg Borough||03 Jan 2013||Incorporated after voters approved borough formation in December 2012.||Named for Norwegian immigrant Peter Buschmann, founder of the former city of Petersburg.|
|Sitka City-Borough||24 Sep 1963||Derived from Tlingit word Shee At’iká, meaning “People on the outside of Shee (Baranof Island).”|
|Skagway City-Borough||05 Jun 2007||Derived from Tlingit word Shgagwèi, meaning “a windy place with white caps on the water.”|
|Unorganized Borough||13 Jun 1961||The Borough Act of 1961 created The Unorganized Borough including all of Alaska not within a Unified, Home rule, First class or Second class borough.||A legal entity in Alaska, covering those parts of Alaska not within an incorporated borough; it is administered by the state of Alaska.|
|Wrangell City-Borough||30 May 2008||formerly part of Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area||Ferdinand von Wrangel, Russian administrator of Alaska, 1840-49.|
|Yakutat City-Borough||22 Sep 1992||Yakutat Bay and the Yakutat Alaska Native people|
List of Old Former / Extinct Alaska Boroughs
There are no Alaska boroughs no longer exist
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