Letters to the Editor

Miffed over mulch

The recent article on cypress mulch (“Mulch Madness,” April 2) misrepresents the work of private landowners, foresters, loggers, and industry to sustainably manage our valuable forest resources. It was these very same landowners and foresters who replanted our forests to the point that we now have half our state  — 14 million acres — in forests.

First, official forest inventory statistics show cypress growing prolifically in Louisiana. The data also shows only a small percentage being harvested in any year — a number that has remained stable. The large relic cypress and those growing by open water in your photos are misleading as well since no one is cutting those types of cypress for commercial use.

Most landowners who harvest some of their cypress trees are selling them for cypress lumber desired by cabinet makers and furniture manufacturers. Selling cypress for lumber pays three times the amount it would for mulch. The residue from the lumber process goes into mulch. If you want to fully utilize our forests resources with no waste, you should buy cypress mulch.

None of our noted forest scientists believe logging will wipe out cypress in 20 years. Subsidence and coastal erosion are the biggest threats to our cypress, not our forest landowners. It is the marshlands that will be a protective barrier from the storm, not our inland cypress forests.

Flyovers by our state officials in the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry show no massive clearcuts, and to those in the business of forestry the quote that “they can log a thousand acres a day” is ridiculous.

Over 80 percent of the forestland in the state is privately owned. Landowners take pride in ownership and management. They do not want to destroy their land but instead hope to hand it down to their children.

Some are portrayed as guardians of the forest who do nothing for them. Contrast that to the hard-working men and women who continue to invest time, money, and experience into Louisiana’s forest lands.

Writer Michael Behar responds:

According to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, nobody has replanted a single cypress tree. John Bruza, chief of surveillance and enforcement for the Army Corps, said to me: “We know of no cypress swamps that have been harvested that have been replanted. To say that there were 400,000 planted [a figure I got directly from Mr. Vandersteen], that does not mean that they were planted in cypress swamps. Somebody could buy a hundred cypress trees to put in their front yard.”

Yes, cypress are growing. Trees grow. That’s what they do. We’re talking about cutting down cypress. New cypress are not growing from seedlings. The “official forest inventory” is referring to existing cypress, which, as I said, are growing taller. Much of the cypress harvested are simply too scrawny to make decent lumber — you can’t get a 1” x 4” from a skinny tree. Whole trees are being ground up. Vandersteen confirmed this. He told me, “In some areas there are cypress trees growing so thin that the landowner says they are going to cut these trees and there is no real market for logs in the area, so they cut it for mulch.” Although later he does claim that loggers don’t cut trees measuring less than 12 inches in diameter.

I flew over in a plane and saw plenty of clearcuts. The quote says,“a thousand acres in a week.” Also, Vandersteen told me, “We harvest 100 acres here, 100 acres there, or 500 acres over there. They are all patchwork.” I would define this as a clearcut.