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Loggers in Interior Alaska would have to spare more trees close to lakes and streams under legislation that passed the House on Monday.
The bill is a compromise supported by the timber industry, fishermen and environmentalists, said Rep. Drew Scalzi, a Homer Republican.
"It provides one-stop shopping for industry for permitting and protection of the riparian (streamside) habitat," Scalzi said.
The measure creates specific buffer zones for the Interior region, which currently is covered by more general standards, said Marty Freeman, forestry resources program manager for the Division of Forestry.
The existing standards say timber harvesters must maintain adequate protection for fish habitat, but the standards do not set a definite no-cut zone.
House Bill 131 mandates that loggers must leave all trees within 66 feet of large non-glacial rivers, streams and lakes on private land. On state land, they could not cut trees within 100 feet of those waters.
There is an exception. Loggers could harvest timber in the area between 66 and 100 feet of the water on state land if the Department of Fish and Game agreed that doing so would not hurt fish habitat.
The bill provides more relaxed standards near glacial waters. There, loggers could do some cutting in the half of the buffer zone that's farthest from the stream. They could take half of the large white spruce in that area.
The existing standards, considered less stringent, would continue to apply to non-glacial streams less than 3 feet wide.
The measure passed the House 31-0. It now goes to the Senate.
Specific standards are already in place for the Southeast region. The division will next focus on adopting specific standards for Southcentral Alaska, said Freeman of the forestry division.