THE CURRENT THREAT
Though Louisiana’s wetlands face serious threats from coastal land loss and development, widespread clear cutting of cypress forests is also a very imminent danger.
In the past cypress mulch used to be a by-product of lumber mills. This is no longer true. The mulch purchased today comes from wide spread clear cutting of entire eco systems.
Loggers are operating with little to no oversight. No state laws exist to protect Louisiana’s state tree; some that are more than 1,000 years old.
A mixed message: State and Federal Officials are asking our nation for billions of dollars to restore Louisiana’s coast. However, it’s not clear whether our cypress forests, which help to combat coastal erosion, are adequately protected from logging under current state and federal laws.
Though many areas that were logged in the early 1900s have regenerated, local scientists believe that many of Louisiana’s coastal cypress forests would not grow back if they are now cut.
Science Working Group
In 2004 The Louisiana Governor commissioned a Science Working Group (SWG) to assess the state’s coastal forests and to identify what is necessary to sustain their long-term health and usefulness. The SWG’s final report (April 2005) can be viewed at http://www.coastalforestswg.lsu.edu
The SWG report confirms what has been long suspected: Up to 80 percent of the areas being logged will be unable to regenerate. This is due to changes in elevation and water flow over the past century, many cypress forests are permanently flooded and can’t regenerate.
Logging of cypress should only be allowed in areas that scientists and certified foresters find are sustainable and that can regenerate.
State policies must be developed to discourage timber cutting in areas that are unlikely to regenerate.
Incentives must be created for private landowners who own cypress forest. Options may include conservation easements, tax-deductible donations to a land trust, or the transfer of timber rights.
THE VALUE OF OUR CYPRESS FORESTS
In 1963, the cypress tree was named Louisiana’s state tree. Cypress forests provide tremendous environmental, cultural, recreational, and economic value to our state.
- Protect coastal communities by buffering against hurricanes and absorbing storm surges and flood waters
- Naturally filter pollutants and excess nutrients before they contaminate swimming and fishing areas
- Support our economy through tourism and recreation (i.e. swamp tours, boating, camping, fishing, photography)
- Provide critical habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species such as the Louisiana black bear, the bald eagle, and the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker
- Sustain freshwater and coastal fisheries
- Minimize the impacts of global warming