Open letters sent to “The Big Three”!

Letter to Home Depot

September 4, 2007

Frank Blake, CEO The Home Depot, Inc. 2455 Paces Ferry Rd. NW Atlanta, GA 30339

Dear Mr. Blake:

We,
the undersigned, are greatly concerned about Home Depot contributing to
the destruction of cypress forests in the Gulf Coast and throughout the
country. Cypress deforestation for mulch is compromising the
sustainability of our coast and its communities into the future. We
formally request that Home Depot immediately cease all sales of cypress
mulch.

Cypress forests are the Gulf Coast’s best natural storm and flooding defenses
1

, 2

, and they provide habitat for important wildlife. Comparing the
effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the importance of wetlands as a
natural buffer to storm surge, hurricane force, and flooding was
remarkably clear, and cypress forests stand out as the best natural
storm protection. Unlike the 217 square miles of wetlands that were
destroyed by the two storms
3

, cypress forests were almost completely unaffected and, if not logged, will remain as valuable protection from future
catastrophes4.

In addition to protecting people, these forests are important habitat
for threatened and endangered species like the Louisiana black bear,
the Florida panther, the bald eagle, and the recently rediscovered
ivory-billed woodpecker. Each year, nearly the entire system of
migratory neo-tropical songbirds, and many of the western neotropical
species, migrate through Louisiana’s wetlands. These swamps also
support more than 100 species of fish and shellfish
5

.

In light of Home Depot’s new sustainability initiatives,
you undoubtedly see the importance in protecting areas that support
such biodiversity and defend human life and property. In the “Twenty
First Century Leadership” speech that you gave on October 24, 2005, you
stated, “We should view the environment as Katrina in slow motion.
Environmental loss threatens our health and the health of the natural
systems we depend on.” We commend many of your company’s initiatives to
address environmental concerns, and we thank you for all your help in
the wake of Katrina. Now, one of the easy answers to your question,
“What would it take for Home Depot to be that company – the one we were
after Katrina . . . at our best . . . all the time?”, is for Home
Depot to be an industry leader and stop selling cypress mulch6.

1 Wold, Amy. “Researchers: Forests better at weakening hurricane surge”. The Baton Rouge Advocate. 28 April 2007.
http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/7233386.html

2 Whitt, Toni. “Environmentalists say cypress belongs in swamps, not gardens.” Sarasota Herald Tribune. 28 April 2007.
http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070428/NEWS/704280458/-1/xml

3 Barras, John A. Land area change in coastal Louisiana
after the 2005 hurricanes—a series of three maps: U.S. Geological
Survey Open-File Report 06-1274. 2006.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1274/

4 Kohl, Dr. Barry and Shaffer, Dr. Gary. “Mulching Our
Defenses- Cypress mulch and our coast”. Presentation to Sierra Club New
Orleans Group. United Methodist Church, New Orleans. 14 January 2007. 5 Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use Science Working Group. Conservation, Protection and Unitlization of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetland Forests. 03 April 2005.
http://www.coastalforestswg.lsu.edu/

Cypress mulch is an inherently unsustainable and unnecessary
product, and sustainable alternatives are readily available. Industrial
logging of cypress swamps may not be sustainable anywhere, as this is
an incredibly complex ecosystem and cypress trees require specific
growing conditions. A report released in 2005 by the Governor’s Coastal
Wetland Forest Conservation
and Use Science Working Group in Louisiana7, shows that, due to changes in hydrology, many

of the cypress forests will never regenerate once cut. Anecdotal
evidence indicates that clear-cutting of cypress prohibits regeneration
because any saplings are quickly crowded out by invasive species, like
Chinese tallow. Similar concerns about deforestation and regeneration
are also being raised outside of Louisiana. Production numbers from
Florida show that cypress is being harvested more quickly than it can
regenerate, and 47% of total production is for
landscaping mulch8.

Total loss of coastal wetland forests could become a very real threat if current trends continue.

Some cypress forests are being clear-cut and entire trees are being used to make mulch
9

. Yet, suppliers and, sadly, Home Depot continue to claim that
the cypress products sold are sustainable. Our coalition has gathered
extensive evidence of the irreparable damages resulting from logging
for cypress mulch, much of which we’ve presented to your company
10,


11

. Sustainability claims, on the other hand, have not been
supported by any factual evidence. The cypress mulch industry is
irreversibly harming these amazing ecosystems.

Meanwhile,
sustainable mulch alternatives exist, and some are already capable of
delivering on the commercial scale that your company must require. The
innovative FloriMulch is made from melaleuca
12

, an invasive species that is harming Florida’s wetlands. Pine
straw can be raked up from existing pine plantations to provide
sustainable mulch on a very large scale
13

. Other options include farmed eucalyptus, pine bark, and more creative choices like pecan shells.

Individual
consumers can only make a small difference, but Home Depot has the
retail power to make an enormous difference towards ensuring that these
cypress forests and the natural flood protection and other ecosystem
values they provide are not lost forever.

Please be a national industry leader and cease the sale of all cypress mulch products from Home Depot stores today.

Sincerely,

6
Scott, H. Lee. “Twenty First Century Leadership”. Presented on October
24, 2005.
http://walmartstores.com/Files/21st%20Century%20Leadership.pdf 7 Coastal Wetland Forest Conservation and Use Science Working Group. Conservation, Protection and Unitlization of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetland Forests. 03 April 2005.
http://www.coastalforestswg.lsu.edu/

8 Pasco County Cooperative Extension Service, University
of Florida. “Why We Recommend That You Not Use Cypress Mulch in Your
Landscape”.
http://pasco.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/mulches.htm

9
www.saveourcypress.org

. Image Gallery. 10 Kohl, Dr. Barry. “Cypress Mulching Operations in Louisiana”. Presented to Wal-Mart on March 16, 2007. 11
Save Our Cypress Coalition. “Please stop selling cypress mulch”. Letter
with attachments to Tyler Elm, Senior Director Corporate Strategy and
Business Sustainability. 29 August 2006. 12 Forestry Resources, Inc. “The FloriMulch Family”.
http://www.gomulch.com/index.cfm/name-


FloriMulchLanding

13 Keller, Mike. “Save the cypress campaign may help Miss.: Pine straw a fine mulch alternative.” Mississippi SunHerald. 18 November 2006.

SAVE OUR CYPRESS COALITION

Dean A. Wilson Executive Director Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Cynthia Sarthou Executive Director Gulf Restoration Network New Orleans, Louisiana

Marylee Orr Executive Director Louisiana Environmental Action Network Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Carlton Dufrechou Executive Director Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Metairie, Louisiana

Paul
Orr Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Baton Rouge, Louisiana Dr. Mark Ford
Executive Director Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Baton Rouge,
Louisiana

Dr. Barry Kohl President Louisiana Audubon Council Baton Rouge, LA

Cathy Coats Conservation Chairperson Baton Rouge Audubon society Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Leslie March Chair Delta chapter of the Sierra Club New Orleans, Louisiana

SIGNEES:

Steve Fleischli President Waterkeeper Alliance Irvington, New York

Francisco Ollervides Irvington, New York

Rick Bryan Conservation Chair Central Louisiana Audubon Society Pineville, Louisiana

Lauren Stewart Co-President ECO at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Rick Bryan Executive Director Hunters for Hardwoods Pineville, Louisiana

Charles Fryling Jr. President Louisiana Audubon Council Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Michael Tritico Executive Director RESTORE Lake Charles, Louisiana

Karen Wimpelberg Board President The Alliance for Affordable Energy New Orleans, Louisiana

Harvey Stern Founder Louisiana Purchase Cypress Legacy Project New Orleans, LA

Charles Pattison Executive Director 1000 Friends of Florida Tallahassee, FL

Mary Whitworth Bayou Preservation Association Houston, TX

Sam Stearns Public Education Coordinator Friends of Bell Smith Springs Stonefort, Illinois

Monique Harden Natalie Walker Lead Attorneys Advocates for Environmental Human Rights New Orleans, LA

Dave Bulloch American Littoral Society, SE Chapter Sarasota, FL

Louisiana ACORN New Orleans, LA

Michael Roberts Association of Family Fishermen Barataria, LA

Bob Stokes President Galveston Bay Foundation Webster, TX

Jim Ragland Frank Bonifay Alligator Bayou Tours/Spanish Lake Wildlife Refuge and Botanical Gardens, Inc. Prairieville, LA

Louis Skrmetta Captain Ship Island Excursions Biloxi, MS Dogwood Alliance Asheville, NC

Monica Ferroe Founder and Director Raise Awareness New Orleans New Orleans, LA

Charles Ansell Chicagoan for Environmental Responsibility Chicago, IL

Danielle Gaubert President Loyola University Community Action Program New Orleans, LA

Sunshine Bond Shaina Chimes Chad Carson Co-Chairs Loyola University Environmental Action New Orleans, LA

Nancy Hirschfield President Informed Choices Slidell, LA

Brant Olson Rainforest Action Network San Francisco, CA

Susan Spicer Owner and Head Chef Bayona Restaurant New Orleans, LA

Captain Keven W. London BLAST and CAST Guide Service


www.myspace.com/outdoorguide

Corpus Christi, TX

Captain Ginger Rushing Attakapas Adventures Napoleonville, LA

Mark Ferrulo Executive Director Environment Florida Tallahassee, FL

John Swingle Group Chair Central Florida Sierra Club Orlando, FL

Marianne Cufune President Environment Matters Consulting Tampa, FL

Ed Ross Director Community Stepping Stones Tampa, FL

William Lorenzen Executive Director Tampa Bay Conservancy Tampa, FL President Clearwater Audubon Society Clearwater, FL

Phil Comptomn President Friends of the River Tampa, FL

Gayle Reynolds Chairwoman Manatee/Sarasota Sierra Club Sarasota, FL

Bill Stokes Alliance for a Livable Pinellas St. Petersburg, FL

Dan Kandz Conservation Chair St. Pete Audubon Society St. Petersburg, FL

Karen Ahlers President Putnam County Environmental Council Palatka, FL

Marian Ryan Conservation Chair Polk Sierra Club Lakeland, FL

Manley Fuller President Florida Wildlife Federation Tallahassee, FL

Don Chaney Chair Healthy Gulf Coalition Sarasota, FL

Dan Rametta President Citizens for Sanity Land O’Lakes, FL

Linda Vanderveen President Hernando Audubon Society Brooksville, FL

Paul Trunk Mary Gerken

Chair Suncoast Sierra Club St. Petersburg, FL

Joy Ezell Chairwoman Friends of the Fenholloway River Perry, FL

Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club Tallahassee, FL

Joy Ezell President HOPE for Taylor County, Inc. Perry, FL

Rick Causey Chairman Environmental Alliance of North Florida Perry, FL

Hernando Native Plant Society Brooksville, FL

Karen Orr Director Save Our Wetlands Coalition Gainesville, FL

Beverly Griffiths Chairwoman Tampa Bay Sierra Club Tampa, FL

Julie Wert Board Member Gulf Coast Conservancy Aripeka, FL

Marilyn Blackwell Help Save the Appalachicola River Group Ajppalachicola, Florida

Betsy Roberts Chairwoman Clean Water Network of Florida Tallahassee, FL

National Environmental Trust Washington, DC

Mike Brown President Keep Hillsborough Beautiful Tampa, FL

Pinellas Native Plant Society St. Petersburg, FL

Nick Williams Director Florida Defenders of the Environment Gainesville, FL

Jim Northrup Executive Director Forest Watch Richmond, VT

April Ingle Executive Director Georgia River Network Athens, GA

Michael J. Kellett Executive Director RESTORE: The North Woods Hallowell, ME

Marcus de la Houssaye Owner Operator de la Houssaye’s Swamp Tours Bayou Teche, LA

Coerte Voorhies, Jr. Owner Operator The Atchafalaya Experience Lafayette, LA

Danny and Lyn Willingham Blue Dog Bait, Inc. Slidell, LA

Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists Kentucky/Southern Illinois

Kristi Hanson President Jackson Purchase Audubon Paducah, KY

Alex Morgan Seattle Audubon Seattle, WA

AIYEEEE Ron “Black” Guidry
www.guidebookamerica.com

A Cajun Man’s Swamp Cruise, Inc.


www.cajunman.com

Houma, LA

Joe Serres President Friends of Living Oregon Waters (FLOW) Grants Pass, OR

Sandra Silfer President League of Women Voters of St. Tammany Covington, LA

Ben Taylor President Lake Maurepas Society Hammond, LA

Loretto O’Reilly President Advocates for Smart Growth Covington, LA

Chris Nogues President Bayou Liberty Association Slidell, LA

Elizabeth Berli Manager Aria Salon Spa Shoppe Alpharetta, GA

Peter Ostroske Old Harbor Outfitters Block Island, RI

Stan Kroh President Tampa Audubon Society

Chuck Morton President Hernando Environmental Land Protectors Weeki Wachee, FL

Gus Muench President Oyster Reef Designs, Inc. Ruskin, FL

Jim Bierly President Citrus Audubon Society Crystal River, FL

Brett Paben Senior Staff Attorney Wildlaw Florida Office Tallahassee, FL

Svetlana Frolova Marketing Director Avant Salons ans Spa Austin, TX

David Gurney President CFACT Hammond, LA

WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE MEMBERS

Altamah Riverkeeper-Altamah Coastkeeper James Holland, Riverkeeper Deborah Sheppard, Coastkeeper Darien, Georgia

Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips Berlin, Maryland

Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Eliza Smith Steinmeier Baltimore, Maryland

Black
Warrior Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke, Riverkeeper Charles Scribner -
Director of Development John Kinney – Legal Program Coordinator Mark
Martin – Chief Prosecuting Attorney David Whiteside – Founder / Board
member: Birmingham, Alabama

Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner Sedley, Virginia

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Julie Barrett O’Neill Buffalo, New York

Canadian Detroit Riverkeeper Kelly St. Pierre Windsor, Ontario Canada

Canadian Detroit Riverkeeper Ken Cloutier Windsor, Onterio Canada.

Cape Fear Coastkeeper Mike Giles Wilmington, North Carolina

Casco Baykeeper/Friends of Casco Bay Joe Payne South Portland, Maine

Catawaba Riverkeeper Foundation, Inc. Donna Marie Lisenby Charlotte, North Carolina

Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper Michael William Mullen Banks, Alabama

Cook Inletkeeper Bob Shavelson Homer, Alaska

Coosa River Basin Initiative Joe Cook Rome, Georgia

Detroit Riverkeeper Robert Burns Detroit, Michigan

Emerald Coastkeeper Chips Kirschenfeld Pensacola, Florida

French Broad Waterkeeper Hartwell Carson Asheville, North Carolina

Friends of the Detroit River Peter J. Benz Detroit, Michigan

Galveston Baykeeper Charlotte Wells

Shoreacres, Texas

Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. Roberta Frampton Benefiel Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador Newfoundland, Canada

Grand Riverkeeper, Oklahoma Earl Hatley Vinita, Oklahoma

Grand Traverse Baykeeper John Nelson Traverse City, Michigan

Great Salt Lakekeeper Jeff Salt Salt Lake City , Utah

Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan Hackensack, New Jersey

Housatonic Riverkeeper – Housatonic River Initiative Timothy Gray Lenoxdale, Massachusetts

Hurricane Creekkeeper/Friends of Hurricane Creek John Wathen Tuscaloosa , Alabama

Kansas Riverkeeper/Friends of the Kaw Laura Calwell Lawrence, Kansas

Klamath Riverkeeper Regina Chichizola Orleans, California

Colorado Riverkeeper John Weisheit Living Rivers Moab, Utah

Long Island Soundkeeper Terry Backer East Norwalk, Connecticut

Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Inc Tracy Kuhns Barataria, Louisiana

Lower Neuse Riverkeeper – Neuse River Foundation Larry Baldwin New Bern, North Carolina

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Michael R. Helfrich York, Pennsylvania

Milwaukee Riverkeeper Cheryl Nenn Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Mobile Baykeeper Casi (kc) Callaway Mobile, Alabama

Morava Riverkeeper Helena Kralova Czech Republic, Europe

Mountain Watershed Association Bev Baverman Melcroft, Pennsylvania

New Riverkeeper – New River Foundation Brian Wheat Jacksonville, North Caarolina

New York/New Jersey Baykeeper Andrew Willner Keyport, New Jersey

Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper Chandra Brown Swainsboro, Georgia

Ouachita Rivekeeper Cheryl Slavant Monroe, Louisiana

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper/Pamlico-Tar River

Foundation Heather Jacobs Washington, North Carolina

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister Quogue, New York

Potomac Riverkeeper Ed Merrifield Washington, DC

Prince William Soundkeeper Jennifer Gibbins Prince William Sound, Alaska

Raritan Riverkeeper Bill Schultz Keasbey, New Jersey

River Advocate Stacey Kronquest Savannah, Georgia

Russian Riverkeeper Don McEnhill Healdsburg, California

San Diego Coastkeeper Bruce Reznik San Diego, California

San Francisco Baykeeper Sejal Choksi San Francisco, California

San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper Gordon Hensley San Luis Obispo, California

Saranac Waterkeeper Jill Reymore Saranac Lake, New York

Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers Waynesville, Georgia

Savannah Riverkeeper Stacey Kronquest, River Advocate Savannah, Georgia

Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble Boyce, Virginia

South Riverkeeper – South River Federation Drew Koslow Annapolis, Maryland

St. Clair Channelkeeper Doug Martz Harrison TWP, Michigan

St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil A. Armingeon Jacksonville, Florida

Tualatin Riverkeepers Brian Wegener Tigard, Oregon

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Sally Bethea Atlanta, Georgia

Upper Susquehanna Riverkeeper Paul Ortruba – Environeer Mansfield, Pennsylvania

Wabash Riverkeeper Rae Schnapp, Ph.D. Hoosier Environmental Council Indianapolis, Indiana

Waccamaw Riverkeeper Christine Ellis Conway South Carolina

Waterkeepers Australia Ltd. Stacey Bloomfield Carlton VIC, Australia

West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc. Bob Gallagher Shady Side, Maryland

Western Lake Erie Association/Waterkeeper Sandy Bihn Oregon, Ohio

Youghiogheny Riverkeeper Krissy Kasserman Melcroft, Pennsylvania