Officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are hoping to ease fears surrounding the formation of a Lake Bistineau committee or commission.
Cole Garrett, legislative liaison with LDWF, says the intent of a letter sent out in December 2015 asking local governing bodies to form a commission to regulate the game and fish preserve on Lake Bistineau was to allow local input into how they want to regulate duck blinds and decoys.
“It’s the department’s intent to apply a uniform set of rules to state-owned water bottoms statewide,” he said. “However, we’re giving local governing authorities the ability to tell us if they would like to do something different. That letter was not supposed to be a threat or raise alarm. It was to allow local governing authority to say, ‘This is how we would like our lake managed.’”
He explained that a Wildlife Management Area is property that is state-owned, designated by their commission and is property of the Wildlife Management Area.
“There are state waters throughout the state that are not identified or operated as Wildlife Management Areas but yet they are owned by the state,” he said. “So it was the intent of the department to have uniform regulations of all these state waters so we can provide fair and open access to everybody.”
He says that if someone has a duck blind in a state-owned lake bottom, they are using that blind to the exclusion of all others.
“That becomes a problem for us as an agency because we cannot donate or divest ourselves of a state asset or property without getting some value for it,” he said. “It’s our intent to provide as much public access as we can because we represent everyone in the state.”
He went on to explain that this is only for water bottoms that are owned by the state or they have easements or servitude for the service rights.
Some of the concerns raised regarded the state having the authority to regulate how a private property owner might construct a dock or other permanent structure. Garrett says presumably anyone who has constructed a dock or other permanent structure has gone through the proper channels.
“The intent is not to affect those structures, it is to affect duck blinds and decoys and access to the lake,” he said.
He says when Lake Bistineau was created, it was created as a game and fish preserve and was operated by the game and fish commission. Lake Bistineau was created around 1800, and the game and fish preserve was established by Act 43 of 1930.
Garrett addressed the issue of authority as well. He says the commission would have authority over regulation of duck blinds and decoys but any regulations set would have to be approved by the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
“It wouldn’t have to be in line with (WMA rules and regulations), but it would have to be adopted by them,” he said. “The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has the power and authority to set regulations statewide. What our department has proposed are these statewide uniform regulations unless we hear something different from local entities.”
He says that there may have been some misinformation put out there, and the message they want to convey is this: they want input from local people.
“We know that the people on Lake Bistineau probably know better than Baton Rouge on how they want to see their lake managed, and we can appreciate that,” he said. “That’s what we’re seeking, but there has to be rules and regulations.”