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Frequently Asked Questions

Modern wildlife management principles in the United States are guided by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Model was developed by concerned sportsmen in the 1800s who were witnessing their wildlife disappear under ever increasing hunting pressure. The European model maintains that wildlife is reserved for the elite population, while the North American Model declares that everyone has an equal opportunity to hunt and fish. Other values it includes are that wildlife be sustainable, equitably distributed, and calls for the use of science in management. The consumers of wildlife should be responsible for the cost of that resource conservation. Therefore, in Louisiana, those public conservation efforts are funded by the licenses and fees that wildlife consumers pay, and take no money from the General Fund.

In 1842, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Martin v. Waddell that wildlife resources did not belong to anyone, but rather belonged to everyone with the state serving as the trustee to ensure stewardship. The ruling stated that the government should manage wildlife on behalf of the people, for current and future generations.

In 1896, the Supreme Court clearly articulated the theory of state ownership of wildlife (Geer v. Connecticut) and made the first explicit reference to wildlife as a public trust resource.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration saw the need for wildlife management law. Following Roosevelt’s presidency were actions such as the 1930 American Game Policy Act and the 1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act that set a precedent for the role of science over politics as the proper tool to for wildlife management. Comprehensive conservation principles and their scientific application led to increased professional management of hunting programs. As a result, hunting is accessible to citizens of all social classes in the United States and Canada, a feature not found in many other conservation models.

The North American Model for Wildlife Conservation is summarized by the following seven principles:

#1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust
The government is charged with stewarding and protecting natural resources, and the public holds government accountable for managing wildlife for use by all, ensuring its sustainability for future generations.

#2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife
Unregulated markets for wildlife effectively privatize public resources and lead to their decline.

#3 – Democratic Process of Rule Making
Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process. Everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to comment on and participate in the development of rules for use and conservation.

#4 – Hunting Opportunity for All
Every citizen has an opportunity to lawfully hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.

#5 – Non-Frivolous Use
This principle holds that wildlife should be killed for legitimate purposes. Examples of legitimate uses include for food, fur, self-defense and protection of property. It is unlawful and unethical to frivolously kill wildlife.

#6 – International Resources
Wildlife and fish do not recognize political boundaries. Therefore, working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation.  The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.

#7 – Scientific Management
Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. This principle was inspired by Aldo Leopold who wrote in the 1930s that trained wildlife biologists should make decisions based on facts, professional experience, and shared principles rather than special interests.

Additional Resources:

The Gulf of Mexico estuaries are among the most productive natural habitats in the world. Estuaries are areas where rivers meet the sea, mixing freshwater and saltwater and creating some of the most productive habitats anywhere on the planet. They serve as spawning, nursery, and feeding grounds for nearly all of the Gulf’s recreational fish species, and provide essential space for millions of waterfowl.

Different types of wildlife like different concentrations of salt. Estuaries therefore offer diverse corridors, servings as links among species— especially here on the Gulf. These estuaries exist in a variety of forms: Spots like Texas’s Matagorda and Alabama’s Mobile Bays are bar-built, meaning their barrier island borders are deposited by ocean currents. Once different water salinities are enclosed within these sandbars, wind-driven currents “mix” them into a brackish state.

Louisiana’s estuaries, on the other hand, are at the bottom of, and feed directly into, the Gulf. Basins Pontchartrain, Borgne and Maurepas are delta front estuaries, bordered by sediment long-piled by the river.

While estuaries are home or host to myriad fish and wildlife species, there are some treasured especially by sportsmen, including—

Redfish, one of the most coveted game fish in the South. They gravitate offshore during adulthood, but spend their first four years in estuaries: Our warm, brackish shallows host munchies like shrimp, crabs, and mollusks. As adults, redfish return to estuaries for just the right salt buoyancy to lay their eggs. They can be fished yearlong in Louisiana.

Coastal snook, which love their Florida mangroves: The trees with salt-filtering leaves and brambles in shallow water— themselves estuary signifiers— make prime hiding spots for snook to stalk and ambush prey. Snook also like their share of salt when they spawn, but they ultimately prefer the lower salinities of bar-built estuaries. They are otherwise found upstream.

Spotted sea trout— or specks— which swim in different salinities depending on the water: During summer months they follow their prey into the saltier shallows of estuaries. When the temperature drops, they move into deeper Gulf waters. When it’s hot, they can be found in most inshore spots across the Gulf.

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This is not to say that estuarine species are limited to fish. Brackish basins become brackish greenery like wetlands and seagrass beds, which are critical spots for literally thousands of breeding and migrating waterfowl: Every winter, Louisiana alone hosts over half of ducks and geese from the Mississippi flyways. Waterfowl from the Prairie Pothole and Great Lakes regions like watery-but-non-forested environments. Louisiana’s rolling marshes are therefore a good winter fit for…

Gadwalls, a favorite among duck hunters. They are aquatic grazers, meaning they feed primarily on submerged— and in this case brackish— vegetation like sedges, widgeon grass, and wild celery. Rather than diving deep for their food, these fowl forage for greens in the muddy areas close to the shoreline. In Louisiana, this means the wetlands: All the land in the state was once under, and is still fed by, the river and the Gulf. This makes all vegetation and the supporting soil a reflection of the closest water’s salinity.

American Wigeons also like wetland plants. Louisiana’s just-salty-enough estuaries have the additional plus of keeping waterfowl warm during the cold migratory months.

Louisiana’s winter guests also include blue-winged teal, which “breed by the hundreds” on the fresher, river-most estuary ends; and pintails, which feed on estuary plant seeds as well as the plants themselves. As a whole, the state hosts over 10 million ducks and geese annually.

Meanwhile, Texas’s seagrass-filled Laguna Madre hosts over half of North America’s redheaded ducks every winter. Mallards, the most common duck in the nation, are found in Alabama’s and Florida’s estuaries from September to March; and canvasback ducks spend their winters diving into the Mississippi Sound for food. Many tourists like our coast for summer warmth, but no time of year brings in these avian guests like the chilly months.

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There’s also the economy. The Gulf’s estuaries are the lifeblood of regional communities and businesses, with sportsmen and women bringing in an annual $12 billion. Meanwhile, hunting in all five states takes up over 11 million acres of protected lands annually, and the region as a whole is responsible for 40 percent of the seafood in the nation. Hunters and anglers are also key figures in the outdoor education sector, with wildlife tourism alone bringing in an annual $5 billion. In total, healthy basins along our coast ultimately enable a good 113,000 jobs.

What we’re getting at is that estuaries, these flexible ecosystems, matter in a big way: They have anchored settlements for literally millennia, from ancient Egypt at the foot of the Nile to modern-day commercial linchpins like London and Shanghai. It’s not for nothing that these balanced bodies have been called “cradles of civilization.”

Unfortunately, all is not well in the water in the Gulf’s estuaries.

Despite their ecological and economic significance, most of our basins have been adversely affected over the years by human alteration to land and water upstream. This is true of the marshes of coastal LouisianaApalachicola Bay and adjacent seagrass beds, the Mobile Bay Estuary, Charlotte Harbor and Florida Bay, the Mississippi Sound, and the estuaries along the Texas Coast. Overall, over 200,000 acres of the Gulf Coast’s wetlands have disappeared over the past five years— an issue in part due to an upset balance of fresh and salt water.

All is not lost, though: We are promoting projects and policies to keep the Gulf of Mexico’s estuaries healthy. We have compiled the recommended state-by-state list of projects to begin a robust investment in health and productivity of Gulf estuaries— Check out our letter to Louisiana’s incoming governor, and the RESTORE Council’s recently released Funding Priority List for keeping the coast healthy. The protection and restoration of these estuaries are key to both the near-term recovery and the long-term resiliency of the Gulf of Mexico in order to keep its rich hunting and angling heritage.

The Public Trust Doctrine provides that public trust lands, waters and living resources in a State are held by the State in trust for the benefit of all of the people, and establishes the right of the public to fully enjoy public trust lands, waters and living resources for a wide variety of recognized public uses.

The Louisiana Supreme Court in Save Ourselves[1] held that a public trust obligation for the protection, conservation, and replenishment of the natural resources of the state was enunciated in Article VI, Section 1 of the 1921 Louisiana Constitution and continued and expanded in Article IX, Section 1 of the 1974 Louisiana Constitution. The Court also held that the “natural resources of the state” encompassed under the public trust obligation set forth in Article IX, Section 1, include air and water and the environment.[2]

In implementing these public trust responsibilities for the environment, the legislature enacted the Louisiana Environmental Affairs Act in 1979 and created the Department of Environmental Quality in 1983. The Louisiana Legislature has designated several state “public trustee” agencies to supervise the state’s public trust natural resources, to preserve, so far as consistent with the people of Louisiana, the uses protected by the trust, to protect and maintain trust resources and manage them so that they remain open to public use and enjoyment and, in general, to act as caretakers of the public’s interests.[3]

[1] Save Ourselves Inc. v. Louisiana Environmental Control Commission, 452 So. 2d at 1152.

[2] La. R.S. 36:4; La. R.S. 41:1, et seq.

[3] La. R.S. 36:4; La. R.S. 41:1, et seq.

Hunters and Anglers Make a Big Economic Impact in Louisiana

Wildlife-related recreational activities contribute substantially to the economy of Louisiana.  A 2011 report by US Fish and Wildlife Service shows 40% of Louisianians participated in hunting, fishing and/or wildlife watching. The data is updated every 5 years and it’s clear from looking over past decades, outdoor recreation is a highly valuable annual factor in Louisiana’s economy, particularly in key areas of the state. Here’s a quick summary on spending: Residents and visitors spent a total of $2.2 billion on wildlife recreation in Louisiana, including $1 billion on trip related costs, and $1 billion on equipment. The remainder was spent on licenses, contributions, land ownership and leasing, and other miscellaneous costs.

It’s probably no surprise that fishing is a very popular outdoors activity in Louisiana. Approximately 825,000 people fished in Louisiana in 2011 for a total of 18.1 million days. This averages out to 22 days per angler per year. The majority of this fishing (97%) was done by residents. Anglers spent $807 million on fishing travel and equipment. More money was spent on saltwater fishing than freshwater fishing. Anglers spent about three times the amount on travel related expenses for saltwater as compared to freshwater.

Hunting is also popular in Louisiana. As many as 277,000 people went hunting in 2011, averaging 19 days of hunting per person per year.  Hunters spent $245 million on travel related expenses, $178 million on equipment, and $142 million on other expenses, for a total of $564 million.  “Other expenses” includes magazines, membership dues, licenses, permits, land leasing and ownership, etc. Hunting big game was the most expensive activity, followed by migratory birds and then small game.

The third wildlife activity included in this data report is wildlife watching. Many people who reported being hunters and/or anglers, also reported being wildlife watchers. One million Louisiana residents and visitors participated in wildlife watching in 2011. Wildlife watchers spent $543 million on activities in Louisiana in 2011. Of this, $222 million was spent on activity-related travel, $277 million was spent on activity-related equipment, and $44 million was spent on other costs.

Hunting, fishing and enjoying being outdoors is very important to Louisiana residents and the economic contribution is big. Decision makers need to hear from you about the values important to conserving and protecting Louisiana’s wildlife and natural resources. Join the LA Camo Coalition to stay up to date on opportunities to take action.

2016 USFWS Report

Go to the Public Affairs Research Council's Sunshine Headquarters website portal that serves as a resource for citizens to learn about their rights to access government meetings and documents.
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