St. Martin

Apr 4, 2012 10:35 PM by Shawn Kline

School board contract may endanger cypress trees

The St. Martin Parish School Board agreed to lease some property to a Natchez timber company but they're now revisiting the agreement because it may endanger Atchafalaya cypress trees.

It's not the only school board in the state leasing land to lumber companies; it's a common practice by many school boards owning land. However, the issue conservationists are raising is not the land lease but more specifically it's lack of protection for cypress trees; illegal to chop in most areas of Louisiana.

"Essentially what this contract would do is to allow the loggers to cut down the oldest trees in the cypress forest," Sarah Nau said.

The school board already agreed to lease land in the Atchafalaya Basin to Good Hope Management, a timber company in Natchez.
Conservationists like Nau say the agreement could violate state law if cypress trees are cut.

"Our argument is that about 80% of that land is state-owned water bottoms," she said.

Trees flooded by water are called water bottoms and they're protected under state law but school board Attorney Mark Boyer says the rules don't always apply to school board property. The reason: water levels in the basin fluctuate and the trees on school land aren't always under water.

"They are doing the right forestry practices for the St. Martin Parish School Board." Boyer says, "to preserve what should be preserved and harvest what should be harvested."

The school board plans to revisit its agreement with the timber company and will consider adding provisions to protect the cypress trees from the saw-blade.



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