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LWF 2004 Activities & Accomplishments

January 1, 2005 12:00 AM


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 LWF sponsored and conducted the 40th State Conservation Achievement Recognition Program, awarding 9 individuals and organizations for outstanding conservation work.

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 The Louisiana Wildlife Federation held its 65th Annual Convention to develop policy/positions on important natural resource management and environmental protection issues.  Convention delegates debated and adopted twenty-seven conservation policy resolutions.  The convention program included two panel discussions -- "Where the Ducks Were" and "Public Access to Coastal Waters" which were attended by overflowing crowds and acclaimed as interesting, informative and steps toward understanding and addressing these two extremely important concerns of hunters and fishers and boaters.

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  The "Declaration of Rights" in the Louisiana Constitution now guarantees every Louisiana citizen the "Freedom to Hunt, Fish and Trap."  LWF succeeded in its 3-year effort to place a proposition on the ballot, and, after presenting a strong defense against opponents and naysayers, was gratified when Louisiana voters agreed, by an 81% landslide, that this important part of Louisiana's heritage should be protected.

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  LWF continued to oppose the management of state wildlife lands, the White Lake Property, by a private corporation with no accountability to the public or opportunity for public participation in management decisions that is rightfully and normally afforded to the public when decisions are made concerning the management and use of state conservation lands.  The Federation joined a lawsuit contesting this arrangement and in 2004 was successful in getting legislation adopted, with the support of Governor Blanco, to restructure the management for the property.  A favorable appeals court ruling has given impetus to negotiations that should lead to a satisfactory resolution of the issue in early 2005.

-  LWF, in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Forestry Association, won a $5,000 grant from the National Wildlife Federation's Species Recovery Fund to demonstrate the placement of red-cockaded woodpecker nesting cavity inserts to forest managers and owners as a means of encouraging and enhancing RCW colony development on their property.  The inserts can be used by landowners as tools in establishing "Safe Harbor Agreements" with the US Fish & Wildlife Service that provide for conservation of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker while allowing a landowner leeway in managing property without violating the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

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  LWF renewed its call for the reduction of discharges and emissions of mercury into the environment in the wake of additional advisories against consuming fish that are being contaminated with mercury and won the support of the Legislature for a resolution requesting similar mercury reductions.

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  LWF successfully advocated acceleration of the development of the Statewide Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan as required by the State Wildlife Grants Program (SWG).  SWG is a federal matching fund program that supports planning and management efforts for species that
are not hunted or fished and provides about $1 million annually to LDWF.  The planning for this 3-year-old program had languished, but with LWF's prodding and new LDWF leadership, more vigor is being applied toward developing a comprehensive wildlife conservation plan by the October 2005 target date.

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  The LWF continued its campaign for state acquisition of Elmer's Island to preserve and reopen it for the traditional, compatible public uses of fishing, camping and birding that have endeared generations of beachcombers to its shores.  Elmer's Island is a barrier beachfront located across Caminada Pass from Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish.  It has been closed to the public for more than 3 years.  Through LWF's efforts, funding was made available to acquire and operate Elmer's Island in the 2004 Capital Outlay Budget, however, ownership and appraisal issues have conspired to complicate the acquisition process.  The results of a user survey and economic study released by the LSU AgCenter last year confirmed the strong public interest in acquiring and reopening Elmer's Island and the substantial economic impact associated with doing so.  A conservative assessment of the survey results indicates that the cost of staffing and maintaining the area could easily be supported by the projected admission fees.  Despite the fact that buying Elmer's Island is a good business deal for the state, legal constraints on the amount of money the state can offer for the property, and the apparent reluctance of the owner to negotiate, have delayed the acquisition.  LWF is firmly resolved to continue this campaign to fruition.

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  Following up on the momentum from its annual meeting, LWF succeeded in getting the Legislature to support the work of the State Land Office in accelerating efforts to identify state waterbottoms the public has the right to access for fishing and boating by appropriating funds for the work and requesting expedited effort.  At LWF's urging, the Legislature also encouraged the Governor to take steps to ensure that the public is not being prevented from utilizing state lands and waters.  Although other strategic legislation to address the issue failed to pass, legislators got a healthy exposure to the problem and indicated a sincere desire to fairly resolve it in the future. LWF will press the issue until it is resolved to the benefit of the citizens and natural resources of the state.

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  LWF brought to the attention of the Governor, legislators and the public the proliferation of reservoir funding proposals in the state's capital outlay budget, most of which would adversely and irreversibly impact fish and wildlife habitat, and urged that they be thoroughly evaluated and prioritized within the context of the state's ground and surface water supply needs before any additional state funds are allocated for land acquisition, detailed engineering and other pre-project work that tends to commit the state's support, even though the projects are damaging to the ecosystem and poor investments of scarce taxpayer dollars.  We will continue this campaign until an acceptable evaluation and prioritization process for reservoir development is established.

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  LWF's Deer Management Committee responded to proposals and actions by the Louisiana Legislature and Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.  Through the committee's guidance, LWF was able to salvage legislation authorizing the LWFC to develop a tagging system for harvesting deer and turkeys.  In response to LWFC action that made significant changes to hunting season rules at the same meeting the rules were finally adopted, LWF proposed that the LWFC establish a policy against adopting rules at the same meeting major changes to those rules are adopted and to strive to set the dates for the hunting seasons at least 6 months in advance of the opening of the season.  Defending the equitable allocation of the deer resource, LWF objected to an LWFC 
proposal to allow individuals hunting on private land the opportunity to harvest more than the season limit of deer.  The LWF conducted a survey of hunters concerning some of these issues and will provide the results to the LWFC in 2005.

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  The LWF Waterfowl Committee challenged the practice of hunting waterfowl over artificially-flooded, unharvested crops based on the principle of fair chase and the potential adverse impacts the practice may have on waterfowl and waterfowling traditions, including the distribution of birds in the flyway.  Early responses from hunters indicate considerable support for prohibiting this practice, but a significant number of hunters support it and the bureaucracy has shown no interest to date in examining the issue.  It will take strategic prodding to get a fair hearing on this issue.  This committee is also investigating approaches to improve the duck hunting experience in the face of apparent changes to the habitat and historic migration and movement patterns, including strategies to reduce hunting pressure and improve winter habitat.

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  LWF was instrumental in assisting the formation of the Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus that will be helpful in guarding sportsmen's rights and promoting conservation within the state legislature.

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  With continued LWF involvement and support, the state's Atchafalaya Basin Program moved forward with projects and plans to enhance recreational opportunities and improve water quality through water management.  LWF weighed in with its support for implementing the Buffalo Cove Water Management Unit, a pilot project to improve the water quality in the basin and established an ad hoc committee to coordinate LWF's involvement in the Atchafalaya Basin Program and provide additional support and guidance to the program.  The Federation also continues to play an important supporting role in garnering national attention and support for stemming the loss of the Mississippi River Coastal Delta through its work with the America's WETLAND Campaign and the National Wildlife Federation.  The LWF's Louisiana Coastal Area Study Committee reviewed and commented on the LCA near term plan prior to adoption of the final report.  The LWF was also able to get the Louisiana Legislature to support a recommendation to establish a "Coastal Forest Reserve Program" to provide landowner incentives to preserve cypress swamps and other forested habitats that contribute significantly to the stability of coast lands.

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  In addition to those already mentioned in this report, LWF successfully supported several important pieces of legislation including: revision of law pertaining to the reservation of mineral rights in conservation land donations to ensure that the conservation purposes of the donation are sustained by subsequent surface owners; ensuring that regulation of aquaculture adequately protects native species and habitats from escape and invasion of non-native species; review of enforcement powers of LDWF employees; a prohibition on the feeding of bears; establishing an aquatic invasive species task force; increasing the funding for the restoration of abandoned oilfield sites; addition of streams in southwest Louisiana to the Natural and Scenic Rivers System.

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  LWF presented a backyard habitat display and educational materials at the annual Baton Rouge Earth Day celebration; exhibited at the National Hunting and Fishing Day event in Baton Rouge, the National Wildlife Refuge celebration at Black Bayou Lake NWR in Monroe, New
Orleans City Park Fishing Rodeo, and other venues distributing National Wildlife Week posters and other conservation education material.

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  The Louisiana Wildlife Federation held the 36th Annual State Duck and Goose Calling Contest in conjunction with the Gueydan Duck Festival.  Duck calling contest winners in the senior and youth divisions went on to take 3rd and 2nd places, respectively, in the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

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  Local and other statewide organizations affiliated with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation conducted various activities such as organizing youth fishing events, hunter education classes, litter pick-ups, wood duck and bluebird nest box building and placement projects, etc.

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  LWF monitored legislative proposals concerning natural resources conservation and environmental quality and provided representation before the Louisiana Legislature and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.  LWF reports on the status of legislation to its members and the outdoor media in an effort to keep the public apprized of legislation that can impact the natural resources, environment and recreational opportunities in the state, and publishes the report on its website, www.lawildlifefed.org

-  The Louisiana Wildlife Federation was represented on numerous panels, task forces and committees pertaining to natural resources conservation and the quality of the environment including the Oilfield Site Restoration Commission, Groundwater Management Advisory Task Force, Atchafalaya Basin Program Advisory Committee and additional ABP working subcommittees, Habitat Advisory Panel of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, Management Conference of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, Louisiana Pesticide Advisory Commission, Louisiana Invasive Species Task Force, America's Wetland Foundation, Abandoned Crab Trap Cleanup Program Committee, Governor-elect's Transition Panel on Wildlife and Fisheries, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, among others.


 
 
 
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