Baby Brown is Back: Stand up for Chilkat Valley old-growth!

Written by Shannon Donahue

February 24, 2021

This aerial image shows some of the Baby Brown timber sale parcels in the Chilkat Valley. Photo by Derek Poinsette.

Remember the Baby Brown Bear timber sale along the Klehini River upstream of Haines and Klukwan? It’s ok if you don’t — the Division of Forestry was forced to cancel the sale back in 2017 when our friends at Lynn Canal Conservation called them out for not completing a land use plan for the whole area. Now, the sale is back on the table.

Despite its diminutive name, Baby Brown is anything but small. At 1,006 acres, this would be the largest timber sale in the Chilkat Valley in over 25 years. Located near the Canadian Border between Porcupine and Jarvis Creeks, this old growth forest is high in ecological and aesthetic value — mature, biologically diverse forest spanning steep slopes above the Klehini River—but low in market value. The timber sale wouldn’t do much for local job creation. New clearcuts would be the first thing visible from Haines Highway when visitors cross the Canadian Border into Alaska — not exactly a boon for local tourism. With a minimum bid of less than $300,000, the Division of Forestry is willing to sell off our irreplaceable old growth forest for woodchips.

Why would the State sell off old growth forest for such a low price? Baby Brown requires new infrastructure in the form of roads and bridges that would open up other, less accessible parcels for timber harvest. A buyer would be responsible for constructing nearly ten miles of new roads for this sale alone, and installing new, permanent bridges over Glacier Creek and Sarah Creek, plus one additional bridge to be removed at the end of logging activities. This timber sale is not intended for our small, local operators and value added, finished timber products, but to open up more land to attract buyers for ongoing large-scale timber harvest that could change the character of the Chilkat Valley. Baby Brown is just the beginning.

Guess who holds the subsurface mineral rights below the forest land? You guessed it: Constantine Metal Resources, the Canadian mineral exploration company behind the Constantine-Palmer Project, a proposed sulfide mine at the headwaters of Glacier Creek, a tributary of the Klehini and Chilkat Rivers. The Constantine-Palmer Project threatens our clean water, salmon runs, and downstream communities with acid mine drainage and heavy metals all but guaranteed to leach into the pristine Chilkat Watershed that has sustained people in this valley for thousands of years. The Baby Brown timber sale acts as a subsidy for the Canadian mining company by improving road access to the existing exploration site, and making it easier for Constantine to expand their exploration into the full-blown mining district they’ve been pitching to potential investors. With a mine at the head Glacier Creek and clearcuts below it, spanning the Klehini River all the way up to Jarvis Creek and down to Porcupine Creek, we can say goodbye to the healthy, old growth forest habitat and clean water that sustain our communities, our salmon, and our wildlife.

Tell the Division of Forestry our old growth forests are more valuable than woodchips by emailing Area Forester Greg Staunton and Haines Forester Greg Palmieri Let them know why this forest is important to YOU!

The Division of Forestry has not offered a formal public comment opportunity, but we need to make some noise to let them know this timber sale is a terrible waste of an ecologically important old growth forest. Besides providing climate resilience by sequestering carbon and shading salmon spawning streams to keep them cool and productive, our old growth forests offer diverse wildlife habitat with a healthy mix of trees of varying ages, and wildlife corridors that keep populations connected and genetically robust. Cutting this forest would leave steep slopes more vulnerable to landslides, and replace our mature, biodiverse, ecologically intact forest with even-aged second growth lacking diversity and resilience.

Baby Brown is a bad deal that converts our irreplaceable old growth forest into woodchips and opens up the valley to more large-scale logging and mining. The Chilkat Valley deserves better.

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