Idea for Local Use Lumber Program
By Rep. Dan Ortiz
August 28, 2022
Our timber industry has been an integral part of Southeast for generations. Like many people, the timber industry directly impacted my life: I worked for the Ketchikan Pulp Mill during summers and a short stint in the late 1970s, which helped pay for my college education.
Prior to the pandemic in 2019, timber industry jobs were up by 10% and wages up by 20% (“Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020”). I was hopeful to see that sector growing again. Since then, we have seen another downward trend in timber supply, sales, and jobs, which has led to conversations with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service about ideas for strengthening the timber economy.
One idea that has come to the forefront, thanks to stakeholder input, is a Local Use Lumber Program. Currently, small timber businesses are excluded from a large portion of the market because they can’t provide Alaskan construction lumber for any jobs that require a building permit. If we could effectively grade the lumber for permitted construction uses, over 30 small mills could break into the market. Some stakeholders believe that self-certification – or making small operators their own graders – can be a viable solution.
Of course, it is easier said than done. There are more conversations to be had and few issues to be to be ironed out: who assumes liability? How can we get inspectors, contractors, and insurance agencies on board? How can we make such an intensive Lumber Grading education program accessible and of high quality? Ultimately, how can we expand the market while providing the highest standards of our local Alaskan lumber?
Luckily, other states like Wisconsin have addressed these issues and have developed a programmatic solution that has been successfully replicated in other states. I believe this solution could be possible for Alaska, and I look forward to continued conversations and input on how to best support our local timber industry. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding our timber industry, don’t hesitate to contact my office at 907-465-3824 or email me at Rep.Dan.Ortiz@AKLeg.gov.
Rep. Dan Ortiz
Received August 22,2022 - Published August 28,2022
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