Alaska’s struggling timber industry can now hit pause on federal contracts

The Ketchikan headquarters of Alcan Forest Products and Alaska Forest Association. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/Alaska's Energy Desk)
The Ketchikan headquarters of Alcan Forest Products and Alaska Forest Association. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

In reaction to the pandemic’s disruption of the global timber market, the U.S. Forest Service is allowing extensions on existing timber sale contracts with sawmills and timber operators.

Typically, Forest Service contracts expire after three to five years. But this change gives businesses a way to request up to a two-year extension on certain contracts so they can navigate the difficult times.

Alaska businesses are getting an extra year on top of that because of another setback: The ongoing trade war with China.

Much of Southeast Alaska’s timber is exported to China, and operators had expressed concern about the future of their business under the steep retaliation tariffs.

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said that the pandemic is threatening timber jobs and could “potentially bankrupt mills.” She added that the state’s timber operators have suffered under the “draconian 20-percent Chinese” tariffs.

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