According to Shane Verret, St. Martin’s Louisiana land manager, notice went out to all 18 hunting clubs leasing from the company that the clubs are subject to losing their leases if they have any members who are also members of either organization.
At least one of the clubs, Basin Management, Inc., is requiring each of its members to sign a statement that they do not belong to either organization upon pain of expulsion from the club.
It is not clear how many people are affected by virtue of duel or multiple memberships, and how many, if any, have chosen to sever ties with one organization or another.
LCPA-West is an organization primarily of commercial fishermen who advocate for better water quality and access to their traditional fishing grounds.
The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, headed by Dean Wilson of Bayou Sorrel, is an environmental watchdog organization in the mold of the Eastern riverkeepers and in the same Waterkeepers Alliance. It works hand-in-hand with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.
“We have one Notice of Violation against St. martin Land for the damming of a slough,” said Cara Leverett, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper assistant. “There is at least one, maybe two cease-and-desist order from the Corps (of Engineers) against St. Martin Land and/or the timber company for damming sloughs with logging roads.”
Preserving the Basin’s remaining cypress forests is one of the Basinkeeper’s higher-profile campaigns. With help from LCPA-West and individual environmental activists, Wilson convinced the St. Martin School Board to save a cypress forest on a 16th Section tract in the Basin it had already sold to an out-of-state logging company.
According to LCPA-West president Mike Bienvenu, St. Martin Land is also aggressively harvesting cypress trees.
“St. Martin Land Company, a corporation from Iowa, which claims ownership over vast tracts of wetlands in the Atchafalaya Basin, is spearheading the efforts to forever destroy the Atchafalaya Basin’s cypress forests,” Bienvenu said in a joint news release with ABK’s Dean Wilson.
“St. Martin Land Company is also leading efforts to block navigation by Cajun fishermen and other users of the Basin, and has shown a complete disregard in the past for laws protecting the public use of these waterways and their environmental integrity” Bienvenu said.
It’s not illegal to log cypress on private property. Legal issues arise from damming natural waterways and building logging roads through wetlands without the proper permits.
Wilson also argues – successfully in the case of the St. Martin School Board – that stands of the iconic bald cypress have both aesthetic and economic value in perpetuity for recreation and tourism that far outweighs the value of the trees.
Once a cypress forest is cut, willow and Chinese tallow trees quickly choke off any significant regeneration of the cypress.
“St. Martin Land is openly bullying our members, but nothing is going to stop us in our efforts to bring law and order into the Atchafalaya Basin in a desperate effort to protect what little is left of this amazing place,” Wilson said.
“I want to make clear that we are not against land owners’ rights or the sustainable use of our natural resources, but environmental laws need to be enforced, environmental easements upheld, and federal and state agencies must be committed to doing so, or there will be nothing left for our kids and grandkids,” he said.