In the mid-1930s to early '40s an unprecedented conservation movement began in the United States. Compelled by the devastating effects of drought, erosion, excessive exploitation and habitat loss on fish and wildlife resources, groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, Wildlife Management Institute and Ducks Unlimited were conceived and organized. The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF), incorporated in 1940, was part of that movement along with similar groups in many other states.
An early focus of statewide conservation advocacy groups was removing politics from fish and wildlife management decisions. The popular concept to achieve this was to create a bipartisan citizens commission to set policy and oversee the operation of the state fish and wildlife agency. This idea was vigorously promoted by the Wildlife Management Institute and was one of the first objectives of the Federation, achieved in 1952 with the establishment of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC).
Although the LWFC never has and never will totally eliminate the influence of politics in resource management, it curtailed it substantially enough to provoke 2 governors who couldn't get their way to try to abolish it during the 1950's. On both occasions, the LWF successfully rejected these attempts.
During the 1960's, Federation emphasis shifted more to habitat issues. It was a time of extensive habitat loss in the Lower Mississippi Delta as thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods, among the most productive of all wildlife habitats, were cleared and converted to agriculture. It also was a time of rampant drainage and water development projects sponsored by the federal government, primarily the Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS) and the Army Corps of Engineers. Among these was the Corps' massive channelization project in the Atchafalaya Basin which, as originally conceived, would have severely diminished the Basin's habitat and the dependent fish and wildlife.
In cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation, LWF was instrumental in halting the project, having its environmental impacts thoroughly assessed and ultimately developing what is frequently called the "Compromise" Land Use and Management Plan for the Atchafalaya Basin which includes safeguards and enhancement features for habitat as well as land acquisition for public recreation. This effort has spanned nearly 4 decades, culminating in the ongoing implementation of the State's conservation and recreation plan which Federation leaders are fully engaged in.
The Federation has been successful in promoting habitat acquisition throughout the state including the establishment of the Tensas River, Atchafalaya, Bogue Chitto, Bayou Cocodrie, Black Bayou Lake, Mandalay, and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuges as well as several state wildlife management areas. LWF worked for seven years to establish the 1400 acre Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge for public use, opened in 2009.
After many years of trying, LWF finally was able to achieve legislation creating a hook and line (cane pole) recreational fishing license to spread the responsibility for financing gamefish management among all users. LWF played a major role in establishing the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Program to sustain the outstanding natural resource qualities of dozens of creeks, rivers and bayous throughout the state and the development of the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program to identify and catalogue all Louisiana's unique and rare species and habitats.
The LWF was the lead organization in founding the Operation Game Thief Program in 1983 and the establishment of mandatory hunter education and firearm safety for young hunters. LWF's participation in the development of the Forest Management Plan for the Kisatchie National Forest in 1984 resulted in a turnabout in Forest Service emphasis toward management of all forest resources including wildlife habitat and public recreation.
A major LWF achievement was the initiation and successful adoption of a constitutional amendment to dedicate the Conservation Fund for fish and wildlife management purposes, precluding the use of sportsmen's dollars for non-conservation programs. For this and other accomplishments in 1987, LWF was honored as the National Wildlife Federation's "Affiliate of the Year".
Other LWF conservation initiatives during the 1980s: charging civil penalties against persons destroying fish and wildlife resources illegally, with the funds recovered dedicated to the Conservation Fund for restoration of those animals destroyed; establishing the Wildlife Habitat and Natural Heritage Trust to accumulate funds for habitat acquisition projects; and conserving redfish and speckled trout through a moratorium on commercial harvest of redfish, tighter restrictions on the commercial harvest of speckled trout and reductions in recreational creel limits for these 2 species.
LWF provided the leadership to secure legislation creating the Wild Louisiana Stamp/Print program to help fund the nongame, endangered species, natural heritage and scenic rivers programs of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) by giving wildlife enthusiasts that don't hunt or fish an opportunity to provide financial support for these programs. It succeeded in expanding the hunter orange requirements to help prevent shooting accidents involving deer hunters on private lands and was able to thwart legislative efforts to erode the authority of LDWF and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to regulate the harvest and management of fish and wildlife resources. LWF was able to halt legislation seeking to permit the sale of pond-raised freshwater gamefish without adequate assurance of markets and safeguards to protect wild gamefish from commercial exploitation, and to defeat efforts to repeal the hook and line fishing license that would have cost state fisheries programs thousands of dollars in matching federal funds. Mariculture legislation that potentially threatened marine fish resources was heavily amended through Federation efforts and ultimately died on the Senate calendar.
LWF's Pesticide Committee, formed in reaction to the rash of fish kills that occurred during the summer of 1991, established a dialogue with the Commissioner of Agriculture and his staff, resulting in an improved relationship between conservationists and the agency. Most importantly, pesticide regulations have been strengthened along with the agency's enforcement and investigation capabilities. Through LWF's efforts, a toxicologist was added to the Pesticide Advisory Commission. LWF has an appointment to this commission and a volunteer member serves as LWF's representative.
In more recent times, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation has taken a greater role in securing funding for natural resource management and habitat restoration. Its support was critical to achieving a direly needed adjustment of hunting/fishing license and boat registration fees to bolster the flagging finances of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. It has aggressively pursued the dedication of offshore mineral revenues for the restoration of Louisiana's rapidly eroding coastline and for wildlife conservation funding. The Federation stepped in to halt an ill-conceived effort to relinquish the authority of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to set hunting and fishing regulations to the secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). It got the Louisiana Legislature to correct a statutory oversight and authorize LDWF to conduct educational programming pertaining to wildlife conservation, and to protect box turtles by prohibiting their harvest for commercial sale. The Federation was instrumental in strengthening the regulation of individual wastewater treatment systems and off-lot discharge of sewage which significantly contributes to the contamination of waterways and threatens public health.
Remaining true to its hunting and fishing roots, LWF was responsible for the establishment of a recreational hunting season for nutria and was a key supporter of lengthening the archery season for deer and permitting the use of leashed tracking dogs to locate down deer. In 2004, LWF led in the amendment of Louisiana’s Constitution to guarantee the right of every Louisiana citizen to hunt, trap and fish, now and forever.
Louisiana's continued coastal land loss is a crisis for our state and the nation. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf in 2010 wrought considerable damage to an already weakened coastline and the fisheries and wildlife dependent on a healthy coastal zone. In 2010, LWF began partnering with National Wildilfe Federation in the Vanishing Paradise campaign to reach out to hunters and anglers throughout the state and the rest of the country to garner broader support for coastal restoration and draw attention to the need for restoration after the oil spill. In 2012, the state's Legislature unanimously passed the state's most comprehensive coastal master plan to date and LWF worked in coalition with other organizations to support the planning process and promote successful passage of the plan. LWF worked hard to promote passage of the RESTORE Act and continues to monitor the oil spill response, including how penalties and fines from the oil spill will be distributed and spent toward coastal restoration.
In 2013, LWF called for legislation to strengthen protection of the state’s Artificial Reef Development Fund and voters passed a constitutional amendment to protect the fund in 2014. LWF led the charge to add protection of streambeds in the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Program from habitat destruction by off-road vehicles.
In 2015, LWF advocated for adding protection of streambeds in the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Program to prevent destruction by off-road vehicles.
In 2018, LWF was a lead advocate to protect the Sabine Oyster Reef, one of the best examples of a natural living oyster reef complex in the northern hemisphere, by passing a moratorium on oyster harvesting of the reef. LWF also led objections to the proposal of adding non-native Sterlet sturgeon to Louisiana's list of domestic aquatic organisms.
In following the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, LWF continues to be the state’s leader in taking politics out of natural resource management, initiating protection of our natural resources and preserving the public’s right to enjoy and use their resources.
LWF incorporated in 1940
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission
Created a bipartisan citizens commission in 1952 to set policy and oversee the operation of the state fish and wildlife agency.
Established "The Compromise"
The compromise is the Land Use and Management Plan for the Atchafalaya Basin which has spanned nearly 4 decades.
Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Program
Established the program to sustain the outstanding natural resource qualities of dozens of creeks, rivers and bayous throughout the state. In 2015, LWF advocated for adding protection of the streambeds in the program.
Operation Game Thief Program
Founded the program in 1983 and the establishment of mandatory hunter education and firearm safety for young hunters.
Artificial Reef Program
Led in the establishment of Louisiana's Artificial Reef Program in 1986.
Protection for Conservation Fund
Initiated the successful adoption of a constitutional amendment to dedicate the Conservation Fund for fish and wildlife management purposes in 1987.
Formed in reaction to the rash of fish kills that occurred during the summer of 1991.
Right to Hunt, Trap, Fish
Led in the 2004 amendment of Louisiana's Constitution to secure the right of every Louisiana citizen to hunt, trap and fish, now and forever.
Wastewater Treatment Systems Regulation
Strengthened the regulation which significantly contributes to the contamination of waterways and threatens public health.
Box Turtle Protection
Introduced legislation to protect box turtles by prohibiting their harvest for commercial sale.
Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge
Establish the 1400 acre refuge for public use, opened in 2009.
Artificial Reef Development Fund
Called for constitutional protection of the state's Artificial Reef Development Fund in 2013, approved by voters in 2014.
Sabine Oyster Reef
Led support for the protection of the Sabine Oyster Reef in 2018.
Has been a key champion and partner in efforts to address Louisiana's continued coastal land loss since the 1980s.