May 4, 2012 04:58 PM

The St. Martin Parish School Board voted Wednesday night in favor of selling and logging 450 acres of a cypress-tupelo swamp it owns in Section 16 of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Several concerned St. Martin Parish citizens, including the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson, were present at Wednesday's board meeting in Breaux Bridge to voice their outrage.

"It's not sustainable, you lose the trees forever," says Wilson. "We explained to the school board that it's the most important asset that our kids have in the parish because there is no place in the entire world like the Atchafalya Basin."

Wilson says he has spoken with the timber company Good Hope Inc., which the school board has contracted for the logging. And while Good Hope said it was willing to back out of the contract, the school board is not.

"Trees are a huge asset," Wilson says. "They have a huge potential for ecotourism and education, but (the school board) completely ignored that and decided to cut the trees down anyway."

Aside from destroying a pristine habitat for the continent's migratory birds and a gorgeous buffer from those pesky hurricanes, the school board seeks to reap a one-time reward of $148 per acre (or $88,200 after Good Hope gets its pound of flesh) to line its budget. That's small chips considering the trees would take several hundred years for the trees to mature that is if they can at all in the face of the nutria population and yearly flooding.

But Wilson and his fellow cypress lovers are ready for the fight.

"We believe that the logging will be illegal so we are going to send letters of intent this week against the timber company and against the school board," says Wilson.

Wilson refers to RS 41:1009 which states:

Cutting or sale, or both, of cypress timber on stateowned water bottoms; prohibition
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, particularly R.S. 41:1001 through R.S. 41:1008, the cutting or sale, or both, of standing cypress timber located on any water bottom owned by the state of Louisiana is hereby prohibited except in the exercise of rights under a state lease, right-of-way, or permit. However, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources may, at his discretion, permit the selective cutting of such timber.

And as you may have guessed, the Section 16 swamp is considered a state-owned water bottom.

If you want to join the Basinkeeper's campaign to save these precious state resouces and help protect other Atchafalaya cypress swamps for future generations, visit his website here.