School Superintendent Richard Lavergne says the property is actually on dry land; he maintains that the purpose of the Section 16 land is to produce revenue to help run St. Martin Parish schools.
“It’s not state bottom water land,” says Blanchard. “That’s one of the questions that our attorney researched for us. He answered every question that they had [at the meeting], and none of what they presented was a problem. We followed everything as required by law.”
Dean Wilson of the nonprofit Atchafalaya Basinkeeper organization disagrees. Wilson says he met with Lavergne and Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette in February, just before the papers for the sale were signed in an effort to convince the two that the trees should be preserved. Wison says Collette and Lavergne agreed not to sign the documents until they could all meet with the school board.
“When Mr. Blanchard found out we did that, he went around and signed the documents the same day that we met with the superintendent to stop him from getting the school board members to back out of the sale,” says Wilson.
Blanchard says he stands behind the board's decision. “This board may make a lot of decisions that a lot of the public is not in agreement with,” he says, "but we make our decisions based on facts and what is in the best interest for the St. Martin Parish School Board.”
Wilson and the rest in league with the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper aren’t swayed. In addition to exploring legal action against both the Good Hope timber company and the St. Martin Parish School Board, they are also challenging Good Hope’s permit for the landing area to be built in the basin for the logging.
To find out how you can help Atchafalaya Basinkeeper protect the basin, visit BasinKeeper.org or find them on Facebook.