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Bjorkman’s lumber bill quickly passes Senate, House

 Sen. Jesse Bjorkman presents his lumber bill in the Senate Finance Committee.
Riley Board
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman presents his lumber bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

Local lumber mill owners were supportive of the bill when it was first introduced, and it picked up letters of support from environmental groups and loggers over the past two months.

A bill designed to keep lumber production more local in Alaska is flying through the legislature. Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman’s bill passed the Senate and the House, and is now awaiting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s signature.

Bjorkman introduced the bill in early March. It allows local lumber producers in the state to grade, or assess, their own lumber, rather than relying on a middleman. Producers would take a class through the Department of Natural Resources, and receive a certificate to grade their lumber. Bjorkman says the idea for the legislation came from Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Manager Marcus Mueller, who told him it would help local forestry efforts.

A goal of the bill is to improve access to building materials as the state struggles with housing.

The bill tore through the legislature, clearing both the House and Senate within a week. It had bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate and passed with only one no vote in the House today.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.