BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s iconic bald cypress trees will be protected on state-owned property, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a new law banning the trees’ harvesting on more than 1 million acres (404,685 hectares) of state land.
Rep. Neil Riser told The Advertiser that he sponsored the bill — which won unanimous passage in the House and Senate — to give nature time to reestablish dense stands of cypress that once covered vast tracts of land.
“The cypress tree symbolizes Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta,” said Riser, a Columbia Republican. “I hope this new law will help people have a true appreciation of these trees’ majesty.”
The new law doesn’t apply to cypress trees growing on privately-owned land.
Cypress trees grow throughout Louisiana’s swamps and can have lifespans of more than 1,000 years. The bald cypress was named the official Louisiana state tree in 1963.
Riser said the forests will return on state-owned lands with protection, though it will take almost a century for the slow-growth trees to mature.
“They will come back with Mother Nature as the manager and forester,” he said.
In a twist, Riser was involved in harvesting the trees as a teenage logger in the 1970s when forests were being cleared for farmland.
“I remember my dad telling me, ‘Take a look at this forest; one day it will all be gone,’ and it was,” Riser said. “I’ve got a 1-year-old grandson who I want to be able to see it again.”
The bill is filed as House Bill 239.