Sunday, May 29, 2005

Subsidized cypress mulching

While the Corps of Engineers has tried to limit cypress logging when such activities fell within their oversight, the law is not clear about the imperative of preserving cypress forests, according to a Sierra magazine article.

This fact was underscored when the Corps granted a permit to a landowner to clear 7000 acres of cypress. Concerned citizens responded by taking ownership of the campaign to save cypress, convincing towns and parishes to ban the use of cypress, and working with gardeners to offer equally effective alternatives, like pine. The next plan of attack is to get the big retail boxes to stop selling cypress mulch. Home Depot is at the top of the list. But Lowes and Wal-Mart should be approached too.

The Honey Island Group of the Sierra Club's Delta Chapter has a number of useful tips on how individual citizens can act to save cypress from being mulched, including a powerpoint presentation.

A number of municipalities and parishes on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain have banned the use of cypress mulch on the properties they manage, including Hammond, Mandeville, Covington, Ponchatoula, Slidell (informal), St. Tammany and Livingston parishes.

For those interested in lobbying the mulch companies directly here's the handy Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association directory of companies that deal in cypress.

As if the struggle against cypress logging weren't hard enough, it seems that citizens have to fight even how their tax dollars are spent. In the C.B. Forgotston mailbag, I found this letter authored by Doug Brandon on the use of Louisiana tax dollars to build a cypress mulching plant in Tensas parish for Corbitt Manufacturing. It appears that the Louisiana Department of Economic Development gave a grant of $500,000 to encourage cypress destruction for mulch:

June 13, 2002


Last week was the start of a big setback for Louisiana's wetlands and coastal zone. Don Huthchsinson personally pushed through a $500,000 grant to Corbitt Manufacturing, a cypress mulch manufacturing who is running out of raw materials in Florida. Now he wants to come to LA and profit from cutting the cypress that is just now getting back from the old clear cut days that so damaged our wetlands in the early part of the last century.

The concerns over the destruction of cypress swamps from logging operations is well documented FL. We should be doing everything in our power to guard against over harvesting our cypress trees up to the point where we might consider a ban harvesting of cypress (at least for it to be grinded up into mulch) until the results of some ongoing studies on regeneration and other issues are finished. Instead Don Hutchinson and DED is using taxpayer money to give them money to help destroy a vital resource in our wetlands. Al this while spouting off about how he is bringing high tech industries to the state. Give me a break.

The way I'm told, the grant was pushed through and funded by a slush fund that DED brass and the Governor controls. Staff members had strongly cautioned Hutchinson about adverse environmental affects and strongly urged him to stop the project. Hutchinson intimidated them into changing their analysis before the matter went for approval. All records of opposition were ordered destroyed. Senator Don Hines showed up at the review committee to lend his support. Makes you wonder if there’s a financial interest for him too.

The plant will be in Krotz Springs, so the Atchafalaya Basin can expect to be hit hard. I hope somehow, somebody can still stop this project. It's an outrage that taxpayer money is being used for this. Shame on Don Hutchinson and Senator Hines. It's time for both to go.

Finally, it's not too late to kill the Vitter provision to rollback the authority of the Corps of Engineers to control cypress logging. But more needs to be done to guarantee that cypress is protected. Louisiana needs a moratorium on cypress logging.

As I've stated rhetorically elsewhere on this blog, can anyone imagine Louisiana without a cypress swamp? It's time to do something to protect what remains.


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