By Dean Wilson
Louisiana wetlands at risk
The Save Our Cypress Coalition, a group of Louisiana conservation organizations, is calling upon Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop purchasing and selling all cypress garden mulch until a verifiable, third-party certification program is operating to ensure no cypress is being sourced from non-renewable coastal wetland forests. As the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, I have photographed from the ground, air and water permanent damage to wetlands after clear-cutting. I also have discovered the unfortunate truth that after clear-cutting, cypress regeneration is not occurring because faster growing invasive species such as tallow and willow are taking over. I’ve also photographed whole cypress logs being mulched at a facility located across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge.
Here, whole cypress trees are being chipped and bagged.
We are concerned about the loss of our cypress forests for garden mulch because we know from recent research that Louisiana’s cypress forests play a critical role in hurricane protection and stabilization of the state’s vulnerable coastal landscape.
Also, a scientific panel appointed by the Governor concluded in a report released last year that many of Louisiana’s coastal wetland forests are unable to regenerate either naturally or artificially if logged under current conditions. We cannot afford to lose the coastal protection and important wildlife habitat these cypress forests provide.
As birders and duck hunters know well, a large percentage North America’s migratory birds and waterfowl pass through Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and rely on cypress swamps for food and shelter.
The cypress mulch industry in south Louisiana is not sustainable. Alternative mulches are available that do just as good a job or better. This has been confirmed by research done at the University of Florida.
The demand for cypress mulch is driving a lot of the new interest in loggingwetlands.
As we know from an article published Wednesday, November 15, 2006 in the Times-Picayune, new figures from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry reveal a 15-fold increase from previous cypress harvesting estimates.
Our cypress wetlands now face a double jeopardy of being hit with salt-water intrusion and altered hydrological problems on one end and clear-cutting in healthy swamps on the other end.