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