Overwhelmingly the largest state in the U.S., Alaska is a land of vast wilderness, towering mountain ranges, and some of the most diverse plant and wildlife in the United States. The sheer size of Alaska is so large that much the eastern seaboard of the U.S., including Appalachia, could fit comfortably inside its borders. The rugged terrain of Alaska is home to the tallest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, at 20,320 feet. Land administration in Alaska is divided into boroughs, as opposed to counties, with the largest being aptly named 'Unorganized Borough' as it has no local administration and is instead governed directly by the state. Some 65% of Alaska's land is administered directly by the Federal Government, under the auspices of organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Less than 1% of Alaska's land is privately owned. Originally purchased from Russia for just over 7 million dollars, Alaska was at first not well received by most Americans, who dubbed the purchase 'Seward's Folly' (named after the U.S. Secretary of State who engineered the sale, William Seward). Shortly afterward, large deposits of gold and other precious minerals were discovered on the barren and largely unpopulated land, and later significant oil and gas deposits were also found. Alaska achieved territorial status in 1912, and on January 3rd, 1959, it became the 49th state admitted to the Union.
Alaska is by far the least densely populated state in the U.S., with a population over 600,000, roughly equal to Austin, Texas. Some 15.6% percent of the population is Native American or Alaskan Native, and the largest ancestry group is German. Alaska also has a relatively large Eastern Orthodox population, a vestige of former Russian rule over the lands. Considering its extreme isolation from the rest of the U.S., Alaska has a relatively high per capita income (which ranks 14th in the nation). Natural resource extraction is an important economic earner, as is seafood processing, transport and shipping, and military industry. Tourism is another important sector in Alaska and has grown to become a major part of the economy. While the cost of goods in Alaska is significantly higher than in the lower 48 states, Alaska has no sales tax or personal income tax, and the average price of goods has dropped steadily in major urban areas. The capital, Juneau, is the only American capital not accessible by road. Anchorage is the largest city, and further north, Fairbanks is an important outpost which serves as a jumping off point into Alaska's interior. Alaska is regarded by many as a Republican-leaning state with Libertarian sympathies. No state has voted for a Democratic President fewer times (though it has had far fewer opportunities considering it is one of the newest U.S. states). In 2004, Alaska gave George W. Bush its 3 electoral votes by a whopping margin of 25 percentage points.