This letter is to protest statements made by Toni DeBosier of the Department of Natural Resources to The Independent ("Log Jam," June 15).
Debosier observed that the Army Corps of Engineers issued three cease-and-desist orders in 2003 that resulted in loggers leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of timber on the ground to rot, calling it a "waste of resources" and the result of dictation by a "very strong federal arm." These statements are misleading to the reader. The Corps demanded that the logs be left because they were multiple layers deep and to remove them would require dredging and cause irreparable damage to the soil. DeBosier is aware of this.
Readers should know that the law providing Corps jurisdiction in this situation demands a permit for any dredging activities that take place in "navigable" waters, which by definition these were. In two of the three cases, the loggers were aware that their actions were not permissible. The Corps was rightfully exercising its duty when demanding that the logs be left. Louisiana's coastal wetland cypress forests are being threatened by a timber industry intent upon meeting a growing demand for cypress mulch. Louisiana is now asking the federal government for $1.9 billion in federal assistance for coastal restoration at the same time that Sen. David Vitter is trying to reduce regulation governing the clear-cutting of its forests, which provide protection for the coast. These forests are often the last line of defense against the encroaching Gulf of Mexico.
Recognizing the importance of these forests and the risk they face, Gov. Kathleen Blanco commissioned in 2004 a group of high-level scientists to study this very problem. Their report, issued in April of this year, did not sugar coat the issue: "Total loss of wetland forests is nearly assured in most of coastal La. without active measure to ameliorate problems."
These forests are a part of our coastal ecosystem. They are also important to our culture and our heritage. Indeed, the baldcypress is Louisiana's State Tree.