The Wild Side for October 23, 2011

If you don’t ask, you won’t get

For the most part, our statewide elections are over.

Except for a brief reference to support for the National Rifle Association, our hunters and fishermen weren’t mentioned in this once-every-four-years bloodletting process.

It’s up for debate whether that was good or bad.

Four years ago, several candidates, including our governor, tried to curry the favor of the hundreds of thousands of voters who buy hunting and fishing licenses. How’d that turn out for you?

Yes, we got Elmer’s Island back for the public access just in time for one summer before the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster eliminated that opportunity.

For the most part in the past four years, we’ve received very little help from the governor’s office or from our State Legislature.

True, we’ve got new artificial reefs along the coast; construction of what promises to be a first-time public pier to fish and take crabs in Lake Pontchartrain; reconstruction of the burned-down pier at Grand Isle; and, thousands of acres added to several popular public wildlife management areas.

The bulk of work on those projects came from private groups like CCA Louisiana, the Louisiana and National Wildlife Federations, The Nature Conservancy, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and others.

If we go through the next four years under those same efforts from our elected officials, then we need to shoulder some of the blame.

If we don’t demand — and constantly demand — that we have more public money dedicated to boat landings, piers, parking, handicapped access, fish-cleaning stations and restrooms, then we won’t get them.

Is it too much to ask that the Legislature put in place tax credits for marina owners or landowners with access to public waters to develop better access points to capitalize on the economic benefits that can be derived by our state’s reputation as a first-rate fishing destination?

We’ve reached that lofty status because our marshes are loaded with fish, the Gulf of Mexico consistently produces bountiful catches and, since 1999, Bassmaster Classic pros have set records and wowed the country’s bass fishermen with catches in south (out of Bayou Segnette) and north (Red River) Louisiana waters.

We have that reputation despite the lack of quality roads to these world-class fishing venues. Improved infrastructure could help improve access for waterfowl and deer hunters, too.

There’s another inequity the State Legislature needs to rectify: The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries can sell “nonresident Louisiana Native” hunting licenses, but there’s nothing that allows the same for fishing. Welcome your son or daughter back home for a deer hunt and the five-day license costs $29. Do the same for a coastal fishing trip and your child might as well spend $90 for annual nonresident basic and saltwater licenses. That needs to be corrected, too.