Maine timber advocate pushes for high-rise buildings

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The roots of Maine’s timber industry are weakening with less demand for paper.

Mindy Crandall, and assistant forestry professor at The University of Maine, said, “We lost about five pulp and paper mills in the span of 18 months, and that has a big impact on the industry.”

Crandall said to survive the industry could branch out into skyscrapers… if the U.S. allows them to be made out of wood, like Canada and other European countries do.

Crandall said, “If we can get some of these plants up and running in Maine, we’ve got the resource, we’ve got the workforce, and we’re really close to a big market for these types of structures

The American Wood Council tells us wood buildings are better for the environment, faster to build, and potentially cheaper than concrete and steel buildings. A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to explore constructing wood buildings 85 feet and taller. They sponsored a bill, The Timber Innovation Act, that directs the Department of Agriculture to use existing money to research and market that possibility.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) said, “This is really exciting, so it’s not just paper, and not just packaging, and just toothpicks and not just shingles, but now we can make this laminated timber than can be used for advanced construction.”

The National Ready Mix Concrete Association opposes the bill. "It will take jobs away from our industry," says Kerri Leininger, the group's lobbyist. Leininger says the concrete and steel industries would lose opportunities to build. "It is not congress' role to specifically put a product in a certain area or segment of the industry. And It's certainly not congress' role to specify that product over all others," she says.

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation supports the Timber Innovation Act. Lawmakers who are co-sponsoring the Timber Innovation Act want this legislation included in the new Farm Bill. They give it 50-50 chance of passing by the end of the year.