Funding Relief in Sight for Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • On April 21, Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Tony Bacala introduced House Bill 691 (HB 691) which would implement a hunting and fishing license fee restructure to  increase much needed funding for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).
  • Louisiana has not had a hunting and fishing license fee restructure since 2000.
  • This license fee restructure would provide an additional $17 million per year to help meet the needs of the state’s hunters and anglers and support the agency’s efforts to conserve Louisiana’s natural resources.

Why it Matters: Due to a limited budget, the LDWF has difficulty providing services for hunters and anglers. For example, Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are understaffed, the agency has 22 unfilled vacancies in their law enforcement division and shooting range hours have been reduced. Additionally, new pressing natural resource management issues – Asian carp, feral hogs, giant Salvinia, and chronic wasting disease, among many others – stress the agency’s limited budget.

The LDWF basic hunting and fishing license fees have been the same since 2000, and commercial fees have largely been the same since 1985. LDWF historically relied on oil and mineral royalties from state-owned WMAs to provide funding for the agency in addition to commercial license sales as well as sportsmen and women generated dollars through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. The decline in oil production and falling price of oil has contributed to the deficit in the agency’s budget. This deficit hinders the agency’s ability to meet the needs of hunters and anglers and manage the state’s natural resources.

Since 2000, many different issues that require funding have come to the forefront of state fish and wildlife agencies across the Southeast, including Louisiana,. For example, invasive species such as Asian carp have impacted much of the Mississippi River and its tributaries and prove to be a viable threat to recreational fishing, commercial fishing, boating, tourism, and related recreational opportunities due to their negative impact on native fisheries and the propensity to jump out of the water and physically harm humans. Additionally, feral hog populations continue to explode across the Southeast, causing millions of dollars in damage to agricultural operations and negatively impacting conservation efforts. State fish and wildlife agencies, in many instances, serve as the first line of defense to protect the state’s ecosystems.

The new fee structure would make Louisiana’s fees similar to other Gulf Coast states, while streamlining the current complicated license structure by reducing the number of licenses required for sportsmen and women to get into the field or on the water. The new structure would also implement registration fees on users who currently use the state’s waterways at no charge, such as paddlers. LDWF would also be able to obtain a larger portion of federal matching revenues through the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Acts.

Passing HB 691 would establish a funding structure that would allow LDWF to keep Louisiana touting its “Sportsman’s Paradise” moniker and meet the needs of its hunter and angler constituency. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supports HB 691 and will continue to monitor its progress.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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