Wal-mart’s recent “green” conversion appears to be much more than skin deep. This week came news that the stores would stop carrying cypress mulch harvested or manufactured in Louisiana, helping to slow a poor forestry practice that threatens many of the state’s beautiful cypress swamps. In ignorance, gardeners throughout the U.S. were inadvertently causing Louisiana’s natural storm protection to be ground into mulch. Wal-mart has stepped into the information gap to be a responsible retailer.
There’s nothing wrong with forestry when practiced with sound stewardship. Good forest practices lead to forest regeneration, and that’s exactly the complaint against cypress logging—the altered hydrology of the cutover swamp often prevents natural regeneration. And wetland logging is physically very different from upland logging, disturbing sediments and devastating downstream systems. Wet forests provide habitat for endangered species (like the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker) and other of God’s creatures. Moreover, cypress swamps buffer the effects of flooding and storms, such as the hurricanes which often buffet the Southeastern U.S.
Gardeners liked cypress mulch initially because it didn’t float away with the rain like pine bark did. But other products can now easily substitute for cypress mulch. Mulch should be a by-product of the forest industry, but because of the popularity of cypress mulch, many swamps have been destroyed not for valuable timber, but simply to be ground up into mulch.
Wal-mart has had a partial conversion—they’ve stopped carrying material from Louisiana. They need to completely ban cypress mulch, because it destroys swamps in my home state of Florida and my adopted state of Georgia, and throughout the Southern U.S.
Other retailers should be asked to take responsibility too—Home Depot and Lowe’s sell a great deal of this non-renewable resource, and their participation in the ban would be a great step forward.
To read more about the campaign against cypress mulch from Louisiana, go to the Save our Cypress website.