AUGUSTA — A bill to protect Maine loggers’ jobs has been approved by lawmakers and sent to Gov. John Baldacci.

The bill deters landowners who receive tax benefits under Maine’s Tree Growth law from hiring Canadian workers under the federal bonded labor program. That program allows American employers to hire Canadian loggers if certain conditions, such as a shortage of resident labor, are met.

But supporters of the bill say many landowners find ways to hire cheaper foreign labor even if local workers are available.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake, says foreign labor’s been a long-standing issue in northern Maine. Under his bill, the use of bonded labor on tree growth land would result in the loss of benefits under the tax law for the year that bonded labor was hired.