The largest potential timber sale in the Haines State Forest in more than 20 years has been challenged by a local conservation group and two other environmental organizations.
Haines-based Lynn Canal Conservation, along with Greenpeace and Cascadia Wildlands, filed an appeal of the final best interest finding for the timber harvest.
In March, the State Division of Forestry released the final finding, making the decision to move forward into the planning phase of the sale.
The Baby Brown sale area encompasses 855 acres of old-growth spruce and hemlock along the Klehini River, Porcupine to Jarvis Creek area. The estimated 16-million board feet could be sold in one large sale or in separate pieces.
In the appeal, LCC, Greenpeace and Cascadia list three main objections to the best interest finding.
“The most obvious probably [are] the scenic impacts,” said LCC president Eric Holle. “Haines tourism depends on the fact that the Haines Highway is a state designated scenic highway and a national scenic byway. And much of the sale will be visible from the Haines Highway.”
The appeal also states that there is not substantial research on the less visible part of the timber harvest: the economic and environmental impacts.
In terms of economic impact, the appeal says that since the likely market for Baby Brown is the export market, not local mills, the economic impact on the local community is questionable. It says DOF does not provide a basis for its estimate that Baby Brown could generate $300,000 for the state economy and 20 local jobs.
The appeal also points out the impact a large clear-cut of old growth forest could have on land, water and wildlife. Holle says he most concerned about the impact on fisheries.
“Really the Haines State Forest is being treated like a resource extraction colony,” Holle said. “Someone comes in from outside, removes the raw material, and then the locals are left looking at the stumps and have gotten no gain, economic or otherwise, from that.”
The requested remedy in the appeal is for the DNR Commissioner to withdraw the final best interest finding and require a new preliminary finding that takes into account: the economic effects of small sales versus one large sale, the costs of road construction, maintenance and other public costs connected with the state, consulting with Fish & Game on fishery issues, and dropping all harvest units that would be visible from the highway.
The Department of Natural Resources commissioner has 10 days to respond to the appeal. If no action is taken, the organizations that appealed have a 30-day window to file a suit against the state.