BATON ROUGE — The cost of a basic Louisiana hunting license won’t be going up.
Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, had proposed to boost the license costs from $15 to $17 and use the money to combat problems with feral hogs.
But he shelved the measure Wednesday in the House natural resources committee amid objections the money-raising effort was premature until a planned task force studies the best way to manage the feral hog population.
“To me it seems we’re putting the cart before the horse,” said Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero. “We’re raising revenue but for what reason?”
Before Thibaut scrapped the proposal, he received commitments from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that it would steer money to the task, equivalent to the $360,000 that would have been raised by the license cost hike.
“They’re damaging millions of acres every year,” Thibaut said. “I think it’s time we put some money into the problem.”
Feral hogs wreak havoc on marshes, farm land and hunting acres. The hogs root up and eat crops, tear up hunting property, damage farm equipment and spread diseases to livestock and wildlife. They breed quickly, and efforts to eradicate the problem haven’t worked.
In a recent study released in 2015, the LSU AgCenter estimated feral hogs caused at least $30 million in crop damage on Louisiana farms in one year, with the animal’s population estimated at 500,000 in Louisiana alone.
Thibaut said more focus is needed on limiting the animals’ damage. His legislation creating the Feral Hog Management Advisory Task Force was approved by the committee and moves next to the full House for debate.
Cole Garrett, with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the agency preferred the study to determine how much more money is needed to combat the hogs before asking hunters to pay more.
He said the department was planning a widespread redesign of the hunting license structure — to go before lawmakers next year — that could incorporate any fee changes tied to the fight against feral hogs.