Exploring Sarah Palin's Alaska

Young Male Walrus Resting On the Beach
This photo provided by the North Slope Borough shows a young male walrus resting on the beach in Barrow, Alaska, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. Environmentalists sued the federal government Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007, for allegedly failing to adequately track populations of marine mammals threatened by global warming. The lawsuit seeks to force the U.S. Department of the Interior to issue updated stock assessments of four protected species: polar bears, walruses, sea otters and manatees. The reports include information on a species' population, range and threats to survival. (AP Photo/North Slope Borough, Noe Texeira)
AP/North Slope Borough

For many Alaskans, the vast grandeur of their state represents riches held hostage.

"The people down in America won't allow us to drill our oil," said Mark Chryson, a computer repairman who is a member of the Alaska Independence Party - a group with some radical ideas.

CBS News correspondent John Blackstone asked, "Would Alaska be better off if it was not part of the United States?"

"Probably," Chryson said.

On the last frontier it's a common complaint that too much of the state is controlled by the federal government.

Alaska sprawls across more than 420 million acres, but some 273 million of those acres are federally owned - about 65 percent of the state.

On that land, the federal government can make rules about everything from oil drilling and mining to who gets to fish and hunt, says Republican State Sen. Lyda Green.

"Is that one of the things that drives Alaskans crazy, that people in the rest of America keep telling them what they can do with the land up here?" Blackstone asked.

"Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, and what you shouldn't be doing, and what you can't be doing," Green said.

Alaskans by their very nature don't like rules, says Anchorage pollster Ivan Moore.

"We want government out of our lives," Moore said. "We want as little government as possible."

Moore, like some 70 percent of Alaskans, came here from somewhere else.

"We like our privacy," Moore said. "We like being at the end of the road."

But now Sarah Palin has put Alaska in the spotlight. There may be fewer than 700,000 people in Alaska's wide open spaces, but the state budget is more than $12 billion, and there are nearly 25,000 state employees. Many Alaskans don't want to hear that being their governor is no big deal.

"We got big issues up here," Moore said. "Gas pipeline is huge, of national importance."

Spending most of her life in Wasilla, Palin has been surrounded by Alaska's natural beauty. But as governor, she has made it clear the state's natural resources are not just to be admired - they are to be used.

And with Palin as McCain's No. 2, many Alaskans hope the state may finally get a chance to cash in on more of its natural riches.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.