The Alaska Senate unanimously approved a measure Thursday allowing a land exchange between the state and federal governments.
Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, allows a land trade between Alaska Mental Health Trust and the U.S. Forest Service, in which the trust would receive nearly 20,000 acres for timber harvest in exchange for approximately 18,000 acres near several Southeast communities.
In a Thursday announcement, Stedman said that through the exchange, the trust would be able to raise revenue for its services, the region’s logging industry would have access to a timber supply, and communities would not have logging occur in sensitive areas.
The sites that would become Forest Service land include Ketchikan’s Deer Mountain and land above homes along Petersburg’s Mitkof Highway.
Completing the transfer requires approved bills from both the state Legislature and U.S. Congress. There are federal measures moving through the process, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Don Young.
A similar state House bill also was introduced by Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz. That bill, HB 155, is still in committee.