Times gone by... Profile of a Major State Department
From the MAY-JUNE 1976 issue of LOUISIANA CONSERVATIONIST (Vol. 28, Issue 5-6)
by McFadden Duffy
On the surface it may appear that the duties, responsibilities, programs, and activities of the wildlife and fisheries commission are related only to game and fish resources and have little impact upon the broad economy of the state. Analysis reveals more. Both management and utilization of louisiana’s wildlife and fisheries resources, and water bottoms, have a vast and far reaching impact on the overall economy of the state.
Another of the activities of the commission is management of all resident game, including deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and quail. The deer restocking program of the commission is considered to be one of the most outstanding in the country. Roughly three decades ago, it was estimated there were approximately 25,000 deer in the state, concentrated in some heavily wooded remote areas. The commission began restocking operations by capturing deer in areas where they were plentiful and transporting them to other areas where there was suitable habitat, but no deer present. After a quarter of a century of rebuilding the state’s deer herds, results are astounding. In the 1974-1975 hunting season, some 162,000 hunters bagged 81,711 deer, or well over three times the number of deer that were present in the entire state three decades ago.
Louisiana contains one-fourth of the nation’s total wetlands and is considered the country’s most important state for wintering waterfowl. Each winter approximately five million ducks, well over a million coots, and hundreds of thousands of geese remain in Louisiana. Additionally, the commission has been the national champion for fair seasons and bag limits, frequently carrying its recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington.
Well over 300,000 acres of prime Louisiana marshes are managed by the commission’s Refuge Division. These include the 84,000-acre State Wildlife Refuge, and the 82,000-acre Marsh Island Refuge. This division also manages two smaller refuges - the St. Tammany Wildlife Refuge and Coulee Wildlife Refuge. Additionally it manages three areas for public hunting. They are the 66,000-acre Pass-a-Loutre Public Shooting Area at the mouth of the river; the Point-au-Chien Wildlife Management Area which consists of 27.504 acres; and the 31,569-acre Salvador management area.
The refuges, as well as the public shooting areas, are intensely managed primarily for waterfowl and considered to be the most outstanding areas of their type in the country from a technological standpoint.
Another function of the commission is affording protection for endangered species and non-game birds, as well as enforcing game, fish, boating and water pollution laws in Louisiana. These, along with management and enforcement of the state boat safety and registration act, are duties of the Enforcement Division. At no time in the past has the division received the respect and high regards as it does now. Full enforcement of wildlife and fisheries laws is the cornerstone of conservation. Less than three hundred wildlife agents scattered through the state have proved that the job can be done through cooperation, determination and dedication to their work.