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Bjorkman lumber grading bill signed into law

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

A new lumber grading program spearheaded by Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman was signed into law this week.

The bill allows local lumber mill owners to assess their own lumber, rather than going through a third-party grader. Producers would take a class through the Department of Natural Resources and become certified in grading.

Bjorkman, who just served his first term in the state senate, hopes the bill will help with housing shortages, worsened by the cost of materials. He’s also said it will grow Alaska’s timber sector.

Bjorkman talked about his vision for the bill back in April.

“That’s a really great opportunity through a piece of legislation to drive value in our local economy, and open up new uses for local lumber that’s not currently being used because of stringent government regulation,” he said. “Local-use lumber allows for cutting though some of that government red tape.”

The bill got support from local lumber mill operators and statewide environmental groups. It passed the Senate unanimously in late April, then sailed through the House in May. Governor Mike Dunleavy signed the bill in the Big Lake area on Wednesday.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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