• ANILCA and the Seward Economy

      Goldsmith, Scott; Martin, Stephanie (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2001)
      The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) established the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge on the doorstep of Seward, a small community on Resurrection Bay in the Kenai Peninsula of south central Alaska. The community originally opposed both, primarily because citizens felt they would preclude economic development through restrictions on the use of the natural resources of the region. In the first decade after statehood, Seward had lost a large share of its economic base virtually overnight as a result of the Good Friday earthquake in 1964. It struggled through the rest of the decade, but was never able to recover its role as the transportation gateway into south central Alaska, which shifted to the port at Anchorage. In the 1970s growth in the seafood and timber industries, the pipeline construction boom, and state government spending combined to help the economy grow. Still, Seward never was a partner in the oil and gas development that stimulated growth in the western half of the Kenai Peninsula, and market driven fluctuations in both the seafood and timber industries were a continuing source of economic instability. As a result when ANILCA became law, Seward residents saw it as another obstacle to development rather than an opportunity. In fact since ANILCA the Seward economy has expanded and strengthened. Annual average employment has increased at a rate of 3.7 percent per year. The economy hasbecome less dependent on the unstable harvesting and processing of seafood and timber. Through the 1980s the seafood and timber industries did expand, but their economic contributions to the community have fallen in the 1990s. The opening of a state prison in 1988 added another source of stable employment and income. Most of the economic growth, particularly since 1990, has been driven by the visitor industry. Although there is no direct way to track this industry, employment in trade, services, and transportation—the sectors that provide the most visitor-related jobs—grew at an annual rate of 5.9 percent. Retail sales from summer visitors have grown at an 9.9 percent annual rate (inflation adjusted) since 1987.