New law helps develop local wood milling, logging industry

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed SB 87 into law Wednesday at Papoose Milling in Big Lake
Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed SB 87 into law Wednesday at Papoose Milling in Big Lake
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 4:22 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 7:19 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIG LAKE, Alaska (KTUU) - At a bill signing ceremony at a Matanuska-Susitna Borough wood milling lot, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed SB 87 into law Wednesday. The piece of legislation establishes a lumber grading program for local sawmilling operators that allows them to produce for market and create independence from lumber imported from the Lower 48 and Canada for residential construction.

Mill operators from across the state attended the event at Papoose Milling in Big Lake, where Dunleavy expressed his interest in shaping the timber industry for small businesses in Alaska. Dave Roderick, owner of B.S.T. Milling in Anchor Point, was among the attendees.

“It just gives everybody in the state of Alaska the option to be able to go to the local guy, get local wood, and build their home like the Alaska dream that everybody has,” Roderick said.

The lack of a current wood-grading program prohibits contractors from sourcing locally-milled wood for residential construction and restricts individuals looking to build their own code-compliant structures out of local wood from getting a bank loan to buy materials. The signing of SB 87 changes that.

Rep. Kevin McCabe who represents Big Lake called the measure a small step toward using one of Alaska’s largest renewable resources and that timber harvesting is economically beneficial.

“The state makes about $1 million a year on our timber resource, and yet we spend $50 to $60 million a year on fighting forest fires,” McCabe said. “To me, it seems upside down.”

Northern region forester for the Division of Forestry, Jeremy Douse, said there are a number of reasons the division wants to open up more land to forest management, including fire mitigation and growing issues with spruce bark beetle killing off spruce trees.

Putting [the land] into management can increase forest health and can decrease fire risk,” Douse said. “Those are the general forest management objectives.”

Under the new law, the Alaska Division of Forestry is directed to develop the grading program and issue lumber grading certificates to program participants or individuals who meet other qualifications.