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An analysis of the changing function and contemporary impact of the Alaska-British Columbia boundary Halsey-Brandt, Gregory Charles

Abstract

This study was undertaken to establish the impact of the Alaska-British Columbia boundary on socio-economic development in the boundary region. The impact was studied in three stages: (1) an historical analysis to determine the raison d'etre of the boundary and the consequent adaptations which have been made to its resulting barrier functions, (2) a contemporary analysis of the boundary as a constraint on the transportation routeways which it divides and (3) an analysis of a future problem which the situation of the boundary is expected to create in the division of authority over the international rivers which traverse the boundary. It was found that historically the boundary was established as a result of the extention of the Russian and British fur trade economies and thus was created as a barrier to penetration by the opposing traders. As a result of its delimitation on this basis, it created considerable stress in the region as the need arose for greater economic and social penetration of the boundary. Several rail, highway, and water routes were utilized to exploit this region and it was found that the boundary impeded the efficient operation of these routeways, albeit to a lesser extent than the Canadian public have expressed in political concern. However, to overcome this problem, effort has been directed at altering the location of the boundary to facilitate Canadian transportation routeways. This solution was found to offer little possibility of success. It was therefore suggested that the functions of the boundary be reviewed and that this approach would lead to a reduction in the barrier effect of the boundary. The future possibility of efficient utilization of the hydro electric resources of the Yukon, Taku and Stikine Rivers was also found to be hampered by the division of political jurisdiction. It is suggested that the limited market base in the region and large capital costs required for hydro projects preclude separate American and Canadian development programmes. Precedent established along the southern boundary of Canada and the United States provides a sufficient political-geographic framework within which to exploit jointly the power available on the northern rivers.

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