Louisiana Sportsmen’s Caucus Steps Up for Conservation Funding

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is in a financial pickle due to inflation, decreased revenue from oil and gas royalties on Wildlife Management Areas, and stagnant hunting and fishing license fees.
  • In April, Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Tony Bacala introduced House Bill 691 (HB 691) to restructure license fees to help the LDWF close the revenue gap. 
  • Also in April, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Caucus Member Representative Jerome Zeringue dropped House Concurrent Resolution 55 (HCR 55) to establish the Outdoor Conservation Study Group to evaluate and make recommendations to the legislature regarding potential dedicated conservation funding mechanisms for the state to explore.
  • On May 5, HB 691 and HCR 55 reported out of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee (Committee).  

Why it Matters: Services for the LDWF’s hunter and angler constituency have declined because of the agency’s lack of funding. The LDWF also faces new conservation challenges - chronic wasting disease, Asian carp, and feral hogs, for example - that require additional management and resources.

While most state fish and wildlife agencies lack the authority to set license fees, license fees in some states are linked to consumer price indexes. Other states compliment their “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding sportsmen-generated dollars with additional revenue streams – a conservation sales tax, dedicated lottery conservation funds, or a dedicated sales tax on outdoor gear.

These supplemental funding mechanisms are difficult to establish, and license fee increases are similarly a hard pill for legislators to swallow. Nevertheless, with no changes to Louisiana’s hunting and fishing licenses fees since 2000 and no significant changes to commercial fees since 1985 (one year before the United States was introduced to the classic game Duck Hunt on the Nintendo Entertainment System), the sporting conservation community came together to support modest license fee adjustments to shore up the agency responsible for managing the fish and wildlife resources of Sportsman’s Paradise’s.

To that end, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the Caucus to host a luncheon on May 4 where LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet discussed the need for the fee increases proposed in HB 691. The previous week, Rep. Zeringue introduced his conservation funding mechanism resolution (HCR 55) with the backing of sporting conservation organizations. 

Both HB 691 and HCR 55 passed out of Committee. CSF submitted a letter of support for HB 691 and will continue working with conservation partners to advance the bill and the resolution to help move the agency move toward a stronger financial footing.

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