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