Alaska needs its industry — big and small.
One of its oldest is the timber industry, and, while it isn’t as big as it used to be, it remains, largely because of its tenacity.
Viking Lumber in Klawock is a small sawmill still operating in Southeast Alaska. It’s been in operation since 1994 (22 years), and it is a major employer in Klawock and on Prince of Wales Island.
Its struggle, which it shares with any timber-related business in Alaska, is acquiring timber.
Gov. Bill Walker, along with Sen. Bert Stedman, Rep. Dan Ortiz and other state legislators, changed that to a degree this spring and summer. Walker signed Senate Bill 32 into law last week.
The law allows the state to increase the size of its timber sales to benefit mills such as Viking.
This is all about the economy and jobs. With economic declines in the state and a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit, every job is as significant as when the Ketchikan Pulp Mill opened in the 1950s — before state oil revenue — to create jobs and boost Southeast’s economy. The mill closed about 40 years later under heavy pressure from extreme environmentalists and conservationists nationwide.
Since then the federal government has dramatically lowered its available timber for the industry.
The state has stepped in. It’s a self-reliant move. It’s also a necessary one, if the area is to make the most out of its job possibilities.
Gov. Walker is keenly aware of what it takes to make numbers work. He’s dealing forcefully with the deficit while encouraging and signing off on changes in law to help the state remain open for business.
The timber law is his most recent action. It’s what Klawock, Prince of Wales, Southeast and Alaska need in the years to come — a clearer path to a viable future.
— Ketchikan Daily News,