KETCHIKAN - Alaska yellow cedar has proved so strong the American Lumber Standards Committee has created a new species designation for the rot-resistant wood.
Kevin Curtis, director of the Ketchikan Wood Technology Center, said the special designation will give the state's mills an advantage in marketing and selling yellow cedar products.
The center's tests have showed that Alaska yellow cedar has the strength of Douglas fir, he said.
"The strength testing has shown that it's exceptionally strong, much stronger than previously thought," Curtis told the Ketchikan Daily News. "The Forest Service has done studies that show that its decay resistance goes up to 80 years with no deduction in strength or preservative properties."
The designation specifically applies to yellow cedar that is harvested within the state of Alaska, Curtis said.
The Wood Technology Center, meanwhile, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service that should help boost the value of Alaska wood, said Dennis Neill, spokesman for the Tongass National Forest.
"This is part and parcel of the same kind of effort we've being doing to help in providing drying kilns and developing different approaches to timber sales to make it easier for our family-owned mills to operate," he said.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole said the center's work helps put Alaska wood on different playing field.
"It provides an opportunity for our processors that are currently around to find different markets than they've currently got," he said.
Cole said processors now are having a very difficult time selling product.
The wood products center opened two years ago at the former Ketchikan Pulp Mill at Ward Cove and has six full-time employees and a seasonal staff of nine, Curtis said. The center has been testing visually graded dimension lumber from around Alaska. It also looks at new markets and uses for Alaska wood.