The Advocate’s front-page article of Sept. 26 regarding closure of the Louisiana State Cypress sawmill is incomplete, and your readers need to hear the rest of the story.
According to the article, the mill closed because of Wal-Mart policy of not buying cypress mulch, but that was only partially true.
The mill-produced cypress lumber and mulch was simply a by-product of the manufacturing process. In the sawing process, slabs and edgings are left as waste and used to fuel boilers or can be bagged for mulch. The primary product of this mill was lumber that eventually would be manufactured into cabinetry, flooring, molding and furniture.
Previous to this mill’s opening, the rough cypress lumber used by businesses to produce these items was purchased from other states that reaped the economic benefits. This was not always the case. In the early 1900s, cypress sawmills operating in Louisiana were responsible for the establishment of many towns and their economic survival. Gramercy, Patterson and Ponchatoula are a few examples. Most of the homes and businesses in New Orleans were built with cypress lumber.
The mill closed because landowners wishing to log and market their cypress were threatened by federal agencies that questioned the sustainability of harvesting and placed regulatory permitting requirements on the property owners. The mill ultimately could not purchase sufficient quantities of logs and was forced to close.
The fact is that saltwater intrusion and land subsidence claim more cypress than harvesting ever did. Cypress can be harvested in a sustainable manner on thousands of acres in our state, but the federal agencies, namely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency, have been influenced by preservationist groups such as the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and others. These preservationists despise capitalism, free enterprise and private property rights, and they champion public entitlement and socialistic viewpoints. They hide behind the umbrella of 501(c)3 status (non-taxpaying, charitable organizations).
Their claim that our cypress forests are worth billions of dollars for their intrinsic value does nothing more than provide a sound bite. Ask any landowner who owns cypress forests if the preservationist or governmental agencies have offered to purchase their property for what they (the preservationists) claim it is worth!
Perhaps Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain and the state ought to consider billing the aforementioned groups and agencies and hold them responsible for payment of the loan!
Paul D. Frey
retired state forester