Outdoor Corner: A Team Effort
“Sportsman’s Paradise” along with “The Bayou State” are nicknames that Louisiana has earned and are printed on the bottom of our vehicle license plates. Not only do we have plenty of native folks that enjoy the outdoor opportunities that are available here, but people from all over the world visit here to take part in them as well.
The demand to participate from the recreational aspect is only one segment of the population that draws from the resources available. There is the commercial side along with guide services that are two more segments that use the resources as well.
The game or hunting aspect along with fishing take from those resources. So there was a need to regulate the amount of wildlife and fish removed to be able to sustain enough resources without harming the populations.
So in 1909, Gov. John Parker, an avid conservationist, friend and hunting partner of President Theodore Roosevelt, convinced the Louisiana Legislature to create the Louisiana Board of Commissioners for the Protection of Birds, Game, and Fish.
While Louisiana's first wildlife conservation law was passed in 1857, and many regulations regarding oysters were passed in the late 1800s, it was not until 1909 that a formal body was appointed and given the task of overseeing wildlife and fisheries conservation in the state.
One year later, in 1910, the Louisiana Oyster Commission (which had been created in 1902) merged with the Board of Commissioners to form the Louisiana Department of Conservation.
Act 127 of 1912 constitutionally created the Conservation Commission of Louisiana as a department of Louisiana's state government, with the mission of providing for the protection of the state's birds, fish, shellfish, wild quadrupeds, forestry, and mineral resources.
Act 105 of 1918 changed the name of the agency back to the Department of Conservation and directed that it be controlled by an officer known as the Commissioner of Conservation, who would be appointed by the Governor for a term of four years.
The Department of Conservation continued in the role of lead agency in charge of wildlife and fisheries conservation until the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was officially created on December 11, 1944, in accordance with the terms of a Constitutional Amendment approved by the people of Louisiana on November 7, 1944.
Today it’s mission statement is “To manage, conserve, and promote wise utilization of Louisiana’s renewable fish and wildlife resources and their supporting habitats through replenishment, protection, enhancement, research, development, and education for the social and economic benefit of current and future generations.”
“To provide opportunities for and to encourage the use and enjoyment of these resources in a safe and healthy environment both on land and on water.”
Back in my youth, all we knew to call them were game wardens. You know, someone that laid in wait to catch folks taking too much game or fish. “Outlaws” is what folks were called that broke game laws on a regular basis. There was no stigma attached to this group of law breakers. Oh my, how things have changed.
One of the most influential forces to bring change in the game law violations arena didn’t come from inside the department. It came from a group of citizens that organized a group to do something about it in 1989 titled Hunters Against Poachers. Dutchtown’s own Warren King was its first president.
The group was formed by local hunters right here in Ascension Parish that was concerned about game law violators and the lack of prosecution. There were too many folks that were literally stealing our game and fish without paying enough consequences to be a deterrent.
There were plenty of violators being caught and cases made but the problem was the court system. Game law violations didn’t seem to carry as much weight as other cases and it wasn’t unusual for some cases to get “swept under the rug” if you know what I mean.
The mission of the group was to follow poaching cases through the court system until a verdict was reached. It took lots of effort and time from a lot of volunteers to see these poaching cases come to a just conclusion.
In 2001 American Sportsmen Against Poachers was formed to continue the efforts that began in 1989 and man, did it work!
Before lot’s of hunters just sort of put up with it as part of the game. As more and more folks were getting their just due for their violations, real hunters began to separate themselves from the “outlaws” and that group began to be shunned by their peers.
A light was shined on this activity like never before and it became very unpopular to be associated with the law breakers. So popular has it become to put the spotlight on fish and game violators that one of Louisiana Legend Don Dubuc’s most popular segments on his radio show is “Bad Boys of the Outdoors” where Louisiana’s worst violators are exposed to a nationwide audience.
So effective were the efforts of Hunters Against Poachers and American Sportsmen Against Poachers that it caused a paradigm shift that literally put them out of business so to speak.
Now nobody wants to be a “Bad Boys of the Outdoors” that would ruin a reputation, cost lots of money and even spend some time behind bars. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents cited a Jeanerette man on Nov. 12 for the alleged illegal killing of a Louisiana black bear in Iberia Parish.
Agents cited Michael J. White, 62, for taking a bear during a closed season and intentional concealment of wildlife. Taking a bear during a closed season and intentional concealment of wildlife brings a $900 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail for each offense.
He also faces civil restitution for the replacement value of the illegally taken black bear totaling $10,000. Pretty expensive. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!