The Sept. 26 article “Ex-agriculture commissioner backed debt; credit union wants state to pay” left questions with regard to why “Wal-Mart decided in late 2007 to stop buying Louisiana cypress mulch.”
There were additional factors that brought the cypress mulch industry to a standstill. Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a nonprofit conservation group, played an important role and wanted to share more of the story.
Around the year 2000 the cypress mulch industry moved full force into the state of Louisiana. Its mission? To liquidate Louisiana’s priceless cypress wetlands for mulch.
Louisiana’s coastal wetland forests provide $6.6 billion a year in services to the state and the nation, and are at the core of Louisiana’s culture and identity. They are truly among the wonders of America and provide the most important migratory bird habitats in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Despite all this, and the fact that Louisiana is begging Congress for billions of dollars for wetland protection and coastal restoration, former state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom and the Louisiana congressional delegation fully supported the senseless destruction of our cypress forests.
Most of the logging ended around 2008. Part of the reason was that The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart were not very happy about the claims the industry made on their mulch bags.
• Louisiana State Cypress: “Forest Friendly Cypress Mulch”
• Corbitt: “Made with Environmentally Harvested Cypress.”
However, the main reason was that the industry, supported so blindly by our state, was creating illegal roads through our wetlands. This made most of the logging illegal.
It is unfortunate that the state gave grants and loan guarantees to the mulch industry. At the time, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper denounced that support and exposed the scheming, while working tirelessly with federal agencies to stop the senseless destruction of our wetland cypress forests.
Louisiana is blessed with abundant natural resources and natural beauty. Instead of supporting short-term enterprises that provide a minimum number of jobs, the state should instead invest in developing sustainable trades such as the dying commercial fishing industry and ecotourism.
We hope this dark chapter of Louisiana history disappears into obscurity and that the state will turn over a new leaf, finding ways to permanently protect our coastal cypress forests.