HISTORY IN THE MAKING
story by TREY ILES
Conservationist Chronicles State’s Outdoors Past
The Louisiana Conservationist became a staple of the state’s outdoor enthusiasts for a variety of reasons. Since its inception 93 years ago, the magazine provided different elements that drew in readers for countless generations.
The science, the stories, the outlook on hunting and fishing, even the recipes hooked so many readers who adored Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise. It was a source of enjoyment, entertainment and enlightenment that was impossible to come by from any other source.
Certainly, as the Conservationist returns, those components will be front and center as they have been for just shy of a century. But the Conservationist will also chronicle history. That, too, has been a paramount function of this treasured publication.
Take a look back at previous issues. You’ll see that history simply by reading the commentary pieces from the commissioners who oversaw LDWF, beginning with John G. Appel, who was appointed the first commissioner in 1944 by then Gov. Jimmie Davis.
You’ll come to understand what they faced leading the department through good and bad times as they attempted to put first the best interests of the state’s wildlife, fisheries, lands and waterways.
The conflict of bringing back species from the brink, such as the alligator, the bald eagle, the pelican and, just last April, the Louisiana black bear resonate in their monthly missives. The battles they fought from the banning of gill nets to the clash over whether or not to keep redfish and specks as recreational species are put on the record. The struggle of coastal restoration has been documented for many decades.
They told how important programs like the Deer Management Assistance Program would be in managing the state’s white-tailed deer population and it certainly has been. They chronicled the recovery of the wild turkey in the state and the proliferation of destructive feral hogs.
They wrote agonizingly about the hell hurricanes and oil spills wrought on the Bayou State’s outdoor resources.
And, all the while, they understood how salient the Conservationist was to stay connected with Louisiana’s outdoors men and women.
The history of the Conservationist reveals how many of the issues facing Louisiana’s outdoors today are strikingly similar to those faced 50, even 60, years ago.
And it has done the job of keeping its constituents informed. In 1990, the Conservationist was honored by the American Library Association as one of the top 10 notable government publications in the U.S.
The consistency of the Conservationist has also appealed to its readers. It’s rare to see something that is published month after month that is undeviating. Aside from some minor aesthetic changes, if you dig out a magazine from 1960, it’s going to be similar in format to one from the 1980s, or 90s or even into the 2000s.
LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon said he was guided by the Conservationist as he grew up hunting and fishing. And when he took over in January as secretary, he thought it vital to bring back the magazine for the benefit of old and young alike.
Perhaps the most substantial part of the history of the Conservationist is how it has taught generations of Louisianans about the outdoors. It is essential for the youth in Louisiana to comprehend how special and important the state’s natural resources are.
“We certainly want the Conservationist to be as entertaining and informative as it has been through the previous decades,’’ Melancon said. “It should be a must-read for outdoors men and women throughout our great state. But what we see as a priority is that it be an educational tool for young people in Louisiana, the future biologists and enforcement agents who will one day join our outstanding department.’’
The tallest order as the Conservationist is restored is to get the magazine into the hands of those who will shepherd Louisiana’s outdoors in the years and decades to come. A key aim is to do that by taking it into the classrooms of Louisiana.
Yes, print products are ‘old school’ and that can be a difficult hurdle to overcome in today’s digital age. That’s why the Conservationist will be augmented with online tools.
But the Conservationist has weathered stiffer storms. Budget cuts have altered how often the magazine was published and how it was distributed through the last six decades. Nevertheless, it continued on and remained a vital part of Louisiana’s outdoors fabric. That’s why it’s coming back now after a six-year print hiatus.
Louisiana is special. Family traditions are cherished here, especially when it comes to hunting and fishing. One of those traditions was for grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers and mothers to pass along their love of the Conservationist to their grandsons, granddaughters, sons and daughters. It was part of their lives growing
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