Category Archives: In The Press

Mulch ban praised; critic assailed


Sept. 13th 2007 – Baton Rouge, The Advocate:
Wal-Mart is to
be commended for its courageous decision to stop buying and selling
cypress mulch made in Louisiana (“Store drops state’s mulch,” Sept. 6).

But readers will be understandably confused by the
predictions of economic disaster made by Mr. Buck Vandersteen,
executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association.

In the past, he and other mulch promoters have insisted
that cypress mulch is a small, unimportant part of the total production
cycle, a mere byproduct, and that its production is too insignificant
to be of any concern. Now he claims that Wal-Mart’s decision will cause
an entire mill to close.

But his reaction actually reinforces the concerns that a
growing number of Louisiana citizens have about the conversion of our
cypress swamps to mulch.

A growing market at the national and regional retail
levels for mulch demands an ever-growing volume of the product, and we
have already seen the result: more swamps being logged strictly for
mulch. Mere assertions by the LFA that whatever they do is sustainable
are not sufficient.

The LFA’s vision for the future of Louisiana’s cypress
swamps — bagged as mulch at your local big-box store — is not one that
most of the state’s citizens share. Nor do most landowners.

Sadly, the LFA’s insistence on its misleading agenda has
helped deny landowners other opportunities for benefiting from their
lands through innovative alternative programs.

Marylee M. Orr, executive director
Louisiana Environmental Action Network/
Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
Baton Rouge

State losing protection for mulch

Oct. 9th 2007 – Baton Rouge, The Advocate: Re: “When did swamps become ‘ours’?” Letter to the editor, Sept 21.

The cypress swamps may not be ‘ours’, but we all certainly deserve the storm protection they provide.

Is it fair for landowners to expect compensation for the public good that their cypress forests provide? I think so.

And
this newspaper discussed the state’s budding initiative to do just that
in the Sept 24 Acadiana edition article, “State initiative looks to buy
coastal forests.”

While the Department of Natural Resources develops
programs such as these and while numerous entities work toward coastal
restoration, the Office of Forestry and the Louisiana Forestry
Association, an industry lobbying group, continue to advocate for the
needless destruction of nonrenewable cypress forests.

Right now, I am looking at an internal memo from the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers that discusses an inquiry about necessary
permits for logging 50,000 acres of cypress forests. And I quote, “The
primary purpose of the operation is for cypress mulch production.”

 

Don't let these trees become garden mulch.

Right now, I am looking at an internal memo from the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers that discusses an inquiry about necessary
permits for logging 50,000 acres of cypress forests. And I quote, “The
primary purpose of the operation is for cypress mulch production.”

So, we are losing our best natural storm protection (yes,
“we” are all losing it) solely for mulch.

 

So, we are losing our best natural storm protection (yes,
“we” are all losing it) solely for mulch. Defenders of cypress mulch
production in Louisiana never mention the fact that the best science on
cypress forests, from the Governor’s Science Working Group on Coastal
Wetland Conservation and Use, has shown that most of the state’s
cypress will not regenerate once cut.

Wal-Mart recognized this fact when it decided not to
accept cypress mulch from Louisiana, and now Wal-Mart is looking toward
other areas of the country as well. Lowe’s and Home Depot also have a
responsibility to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch, no matter
where it is harvested.

In the wake of Wal-Mart’s decision, the logging industry’s
stranglehold on Baton Rouge has been loosened, and it is time for the
state to take more significant action to protect valuable cypress
forests.

Right now, it’s still legal to clear-cut cypress on state
lands, and state agencies can use cypress mulch. That means the lands
that we own are at risk, and our tax dollars can buy a product that is
destroying our natural storm protection.

The DNR program only has $18 million, which isn’t going to
go far enough. The governor should do everything in her power to
protect the state’s cypress and landowners in order to leave behind a
proud legacy of conservation and natural hurricane protection.

Dan Favre

Campaign Organizer, Gulf Restoration Network

New Orleans

 

Washington Post – Storm Protection Turned Into Mulch

Wednesday, November 21, 2007; Page A16

As recounted in "Katrina, Rita Caused Forestry Disaster" [front page,
Nov. 16], the two Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005 had an overwhelming
impact on forests. But one species held fast and protected other trees,
wildlife, property and, most important, people. The bald cypress is the
best form of natural storm and flood protection for the Gulf Coast, but
it is ending up in garden beds as mulch.

Research being done at Southeastern Louisiana University shows that
cypress forests were minimally affected by Hurricane Katrina. In the
Pearl River Basin, they helped protect other tree species living in the
understory. Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center has shown
that four square miles of healthy marsh reduces storm surge by a foot.
Those same scientists say that cypress swamps provide even better
protection.

Unfortunately, our best natural storm protection, which also provides
wildlife habitat, water filtration and eco-tourism opportunities, is
being destroyed to supply the garden departments of Lowe’s, Home Depot
and Wal-Mart. Cypress are being clear-cut and whole trees are being
used solely to produce garden mulch. Many of these trees are not
growing back.

Starting next year, Wal-Mart will no longer sell cypress mulch from
Louisiana, which is laudable, but forests in Florida and other states
continue to fall. Lowe’s cannot enforce a moratorium it declared on
buying mulch from a specific region because there is no way to verify
mulch sources and no credible certification program.

These chains promote their environmental policies, but until they stop
selling unsustainable cypress mulch, no matter where it is logged,
those promises will ring hollow here in the Gulf region.

DAN FAVRE
Campaign Organizer
Gulf Restoration Network
New Orleans

Link to the Washington Post

 

Cypress Trees Belong in the Ground, Not in Bags

 

Cypress Trees Belong in the Ground, Not in Bags
By Joe Murphy
Nov 29, 2007 – 3:44:59 PM
  
A Florida cypress forest is a beautiful thing.  Cypress trees provide
habitat for threatened and endangered species, critical areas for
migratory birds, protect our communities from flooding, filter our
waters, and are part of the amazing experience of being in nature in
Florida.  They are a valuable and intrinsic element of all that is wild
and free in Florida. They belong in the ground, in our wetlands, and
along our coastlines….not in plastic bags as mulch.

Cypress forests in Louisiana, Florida, and throughout the Gulf are
being clear-cut to produce cypress mulch. Whole swamp ecosystems are
being lost and the entire trees are being ground up to be sold in the
garden departments of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. These forests
and wetlands are literally being sold off for two dollars a bag. It’s
like shredding the Constitution to make post-it notes: a national
treasure is being turned into a disposable product.

The Gulf Restoration Network and the Save Our Cypress Coalition
(www.saveourcypress.org) have presented Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Home
Depot with extensive evidence of the destruction that is caused from
cypress mulch. All three companies recognize it’s a problem, but none
of them have taken the concrete step that’s necessary to live up to the
environmental commitments that they tout so loudly. The Home Depot,
Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart need to stop selling cypress mulch.

Cypress mulch is an unsustainable and unnecessary product, and there
are other options out there. Melaleuca mulch, harvested from invasive
exotic trees, is a great alternative and a way to protect the
Everglades while saving cypress trees. Pine straw, pine nuggets,
eucalyptus are other alternatives.  And of course, there are always the
leaves that fell in the driveway or the grass clippings from your yard.

Cypress Mulch
As a native and life long Floridian, cypress trees are as essential to
my existence as Florida beaches and sunsets. They are a part of what
makes Florida, Florida. They are essential to the landscape, the
culture, the history, and future of this state and all who love her.

The Gulf Restoration Network is proud to be working with groups like
the Sierra Club, local Audubon Society Chapters, and Florida Defenders
of the Environment to spread the word about protecting cypress forests.
Together we can protect wetlands, rivers, and swamps in Florida
ensuring their cypress filled banks are there for wildlife, and future
generations.

Please take a moment on your next shopping trip to tell the store
manager that you don’t want the company to sell cypress mulch, and
visit www.healthygulf.org to send a message directly to the CEOs of
Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.  Bad things only continue when good
people, people of heart and conscience, stay silent.  As the Lorax
would remind us, be a voice for and speak for the trees.

To learn more about the campaign and to get involved in this effort
please contact Joe Murphy of the Gulf Restoration Network at
352-583-0870, or joe@healthygulf.org

 

Link to The Observer News 

State losing protection for mulch

Oct. 9th 2007 – Baton Rouge, The Advocate: Re: “When did swamps become ‘ours’?” Letter to the editor, Sept 21.

The cypress swamps may not be ‘ours’, but we all certainly deserve the storm protection they provide.

Is it fair for landowners to expect compensation for the public good that their cypress forests provide? I think so.

And this newspaper discussed the state’s budding initiative to do just that in the Sept 24 Acadiana edition article, “State initiative looks to buy coastal forests.”

While the Department of Natural Resources develops programs such as these and while numerous entities work toward coastal restoration, the Office of Forestry and the Louisiana Forestry Association, an industry lobbying group, continue to advocate for the needless destruction of nonrenewable cypress forests.

Right now, I am looking at an internal memo from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that discusses an inquiry about necessary permits for logging 50,000 acres of cypress forests. And I quote, “The primary purpose of the operation is for cypress mulch production.”

So, we are losing our best natural storm protection (yes, “we” are all losing it) solely for mulch. Defenders of cypress mulch production in Louisiana never mention the fact that the best science on cypress forests, from the Governor’s Science Working Group on Coastal Wetland Conservation and Use, has shown that most of the state’s cypress will not regenerate once cut.

Wal-Mart recognized this fact when it decided not to accept cypress mulch from Louisiana, and now Wal-Mart is looking toward other areas of the country as well. Lowe’s and Home Depot also have a responsibility to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch, no matter where it is harvested.

In the wake of Wal-Mart’s decision, the logging industry’s stranglehold on Baton Rouge has been loosened, and it is time for the state to take more significant action to protect valuable cypress forests.

Right now, it’s still legal to clear-cut cypress on state lands, and state agencies can use cypress mulch. That means the lands that we own are at risk, and our tax dollars can buy a product that is destroying our natural storm protection.

The DNR program only has $18 million, which isn’t going to go far enough. The governor should do everything in her power to protect the state’s cypress and landowners in order to leave behind a proud legacy of conservation and natural hurricane protection.

Dan Favre

Campaign Organizer, Gulf Restoration Network

New Orleans

The Toll of Producing Cypress Mulch

The Washington Post, May 19 2008; Page A16

The May 11 Business article "Shreds, Reds and Stony Beds" recommended the use of cypress mulch. But the Sierra Club,
along with its partners in the Save Our Cypress Coalition, has been
fighting for years against the destructive and unsustainable logging
practices of the cypress mulch industry.

Louisiana, Florida and the other Gulf states are paying a premium so
that unknowing consumers can use cypress mulch in their gardens.
Cypress mulch is not a byproduct of milling operations. The mulch
industry is clear-cutting tens of thousands of acres of century-old
trees, which lack the commonly touted rot- and insect-resistant
characteristics of the ancient growth, and is putting them into a
chipper and sending them off to your local retailer or garden center. 

While the federal government is setting aside billions of dollars to
restore storm-damaged and eroding coastlines, our best natural storm
protection is being clear-cut at an alarming rate for the sole purpose
of making mulch. And despite claims by the forestry industry, the
cypress trees are not growing back.

Until major retailers such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart
take a stand against selling cypress mulch from clear-cut forests, we
will continue to permanently lose vital storm protection and precious
habitat for our fishing industry and our endangered and threatened
species.

Jeffrey Dubinsky
Central, La.

The writer is chair of the Baton Rouge Group of the Sierra Club and Internet organizer for the Save Our Cypress Coalition.

The Washington Post  

Which mulch where – Chicago Tribune


May. 18th 2007 – Chicago Tribune.com: Which mulch where. 

I avoid cypress — the material of much cheap mulch — because now cypress mulch often comes from swamps that have been clear-cut for the purpose. Instead, if I run short of leaves I look for mulches that are by-products of the lumber industry,
such as the shredded hardwood or pine bark mulch. I hate dyed mulches,
though. The current fashion for violently orange-red mulch hurts my
eyes.


Read the full article here. 

Choose mulch carefully and your plants will thank you

St. Petersburg Times –
Published October 19, 2007

 

At the beginning of the column I mentioned an article about mulch I
recently read. It didn’t cover new material but did remind me why I no
longer use cypress mulch in my yard. Cypress trees, obviously, are
harvested to make cypress mulch. These trees are not farmed for this
purpose. They are naturally occurring trees. That means their numbers
are dwindling because of this harvesting.

The issue gets
complicated because harvesting cypress trees provides income for some
Florida families and there are politics involved. I just keep it simple
for myself and don’t use cypress mulch. If you would like to educate
yourself on the topic so you can make an informed decision, visit the
Web site of the Gulf Restoration Network at healthygulf.org.

 

Read the entire article here.

Mulch Madness – Mother Jones

 

Screen Capture - Mother Jones Cypress Mulch Article

The plight of the cypress forests has been featured in the March 2008 edition of Mother Jones magazine. Excerpt is below as well as a link to the complete article on MotherJones.com.

Like a Great Wall rimming the coast, cypress forests in the
Atchafalaya and elsewhere in Louisiana are the single best defense
against hurricanes—magnitudes stronger, more enduring, and cheaper than
any concrete or earthen levee. Their extensive root system spreads
several hundred feet, weaving a tight lattice that serves as an anchor
against high winds and storm surges. Hassan Mashriqui, a Louisiana
State University professor of coastal engineering who creates computer
simulations of hurricanes, told me that a stand of cypress just a
football field in width can slash a town-leveling, 20-foot-high storm
surge by 90 percent.

Which makes it all the more staggering that in recent years an
entire industry intent on logging cypress has lawfully sprung up. Some
of the timber winds up as boards for home construction or furniture,
but most trees are ground into garden mulch. That’s right: The last
natural stronghold that could stop hurricanes from obliterating
southern Louisiana is being pulverized into chips to adorn the very
homes that the cypress would save from annihilation. According to the
Louisiana Forestry Association, loggers are razing up to 20,000 acres
of cypress every year. If the carnage continues apace, Louisiana’s
strongest barrier between it and an angry sea will be gone in fewer
than two decades.

Read the complete article on Mother Jones.

Endangered birds have local homes

 

Sun Newspapers – December 7th 2007 

Thirty-nine percent of the nation’s most endangered
birds spend at least part of their year in Florida, acording to the
Audubon Society…

…The Prothonotary Warbler is among 119 species found
to be declining in number at an increasing rate. They are found in
South County in cypress swamps and other forested wetlands lined with
Spanish moss. Logging for the production of cypress mulch was cited as
a cause of the decline…


 

By Gerald A. Rogovin
Correspondent
Sun Newspapers