Obama departs Aug. 31 for what will soon be the most extensive Alaska tour in history by a sitting American president. While one other sitting American president has spent more time in Alaska — Warren G. Harding — Obama will travel further by journeying further north while also touching southern parts of the state. (Having government planes and helicopters at one’s disposal — something Harding lacked — helps.)
In addition to traveling to Anchorage for a State Department-sponsored meeting of Arctic Council policymakers, he will fly over glaciers near Seward, in the southcentral part of the state; visit with fishing operators in Dillingham, on the southwest’s Bristol Bay; and meet with residents in Kotzebue, 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
While past presidents have visited the state for a variety of reasons — to inaugurate a railroad terminal or meet with a fellow head of state or do a bit of fishing, for example — Obama’s trip has a single purpose: Make the case for his environmental agenda. His itinerary will allow him to celebrate some of the state’s most vibrant ecosystems, including the wild salmon runs in Bristol Bay, and its most imperiled, such as the Arctic.