Walker signs bill to promote timber industry

A timber bill signed into law on July 19 will help promote the timber industry in Southeast Alaska and provide lower-cost biomass energy for rural Alaskans, says Gov. Bill Walker.

The governor signed the bill at Viking Lumber in Klawock, a major employer on Prince of Wales Island and one of the state’s largest working lumber mills.

“As Alaska faces the greatest fiscal crisis in our state’s history, it’s important that we continue searching for areas where we can innovate to protect local industry,” the governor said.

The bill grants the Alaska Department of Natural Resources the flexibility needed to offer more large timber sales during a difficult time when federal timber sales are not meeting the needs of the southeast economy. The legislation ensures that sales are developed with adequate notice to the industry and general public, and still maintains the public process for determining if a timber sale is in the best interest o the state.

The state was previously unable to offer negotiated timber sales larger than 500,000 board feet unless the sale area met all three criteria of having high unemployment, underutilized manufacturing capability, and an underutilized timber supply that would lose value due to insects, disease, fire or conversion to non-forest uses. This prohibited many large timber sales in areas with high demand for timber products and biomass energy, the governor said.