Outdoor Journal

Louisiana Becomes First State to Adopt National Boat Training Curriculum for Marine Law Enforcement Officers

On Sept. 1, LDWF was recognized as the first agency to receive national accreditation in the BOAT program at the National Association of State Boating Law Administrator’s (NASBLA) Annual Conference in Milwaukee. The Boat Operations and Training, or BOAT, program establishes a national standard for the training and qualification of maritime law enforcement and rescue personnel. The adoption and implementation of the BOAT program provides a true national standard, ensuring that maritime agencies can interact together and will bolster their ability to act as force multipliers nationwide.

“Agencies who choose to adopt this national standard of training can assure their ability to conduct missions on our nation’s waterways safely and effectively and operate seamlessly with their federal, state and local partners on the water,” John Fetterman, NASBLA’s Director of Law Enforcement, said.

“Our goal was to be the first agency accredited with this new standard of training in the marine environment. We now shift our focus to training other law enforcement agencies so that we are all on the same page when it comes to securing the maritime domain and providing safety on the waterways,” said LDWF Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, the state’s boating law administrator.

Wildlife agents met with NASBLA instructors in Grand Isle, La., for multiple training sessions in 2011. There, the agents were taught the national standards being used by agencies to help coordinate missions of pursuit, search and rescue, and national security. Learning these vessel maneuvers ensures safe practices on the waterways when multiple agencies, both local and national, work together to secure our waters.

LDWF will also offer BOAT program training courses for other state law enforcement entities in the future through their partnership with NASBLA. In order to improve the course, LDWF is asking for feedback from the law enforcement community; specifically how many of their marine patrol officers need the training and what part of the BOAT program they are interested in taking.

Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, Public Comment Open

A ground breaking planning effort by the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) shows that while the future looks bleak, we have the opportunity to take bold action to save the coast and secure south Louisiana’s future.

The CPRA’s draft 2012 Coastal Master Plan is based on a two year analysis involving some of the state’s best scientists as well as national and international specialists. The state used this analysis to select 145 high performing projects that could deliver measurable benefits to our communities and coastal ecosystem over the coming decades. The plan shows that if these projects were fully funded, at a price tag of $50 billion, we could substantially increase flood protection for communities and create a sustainable coast.

Louisiana is in the midst of a land loss crisis that has claimed 1,883 square miles of land since the 1930s. Given the importance of so many of south Louisiana’s natural assets—its waterways, natural resources, unique culture, and wetlands—this land loss crisis is nothing short of a national emergency, one that takes a daily toll on the lives of coastal residents. To address this crisis the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 8 in 2006, which created the CPRA and required it to develop a coastal master plan every five years. The first master plan was approved by the legislature in 2007. The new master plan, now under public review, will be submitted to the legislature for approval this spring.

Public comment period for the plan ends on Feb. 25, 2012. A PDF version of the plan can be read online at http://www.coastalmasterplan.la.gov/.

White Lake Wetland Conservation Area, Open to the Public

Members of the public will have the chance to visit the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA) this spring. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) plans to let people use the conservation area’s facilities on selected dates between Feb. 7 and May 31, 2012. The WCA facilities will be made available for day or overnight use and are ideal for birding groups, nature photographers, environmental ecology students or small business retreats.

Sites will be scheduled on a first come, first serve basis pending facility and staff availability. Arrangements for site use must be made two weeks in advance to allow for staff scheduling.

White Lake WCA is located south of Gueydan and includes 71,000 acres of wetlands and marshland, and lodge facilities that can accommodate group meetings for 12 to 15 attendees, depending upon day or overnight use requirements. The lodge facilities, accessible only by water, will be available at rental rates that vary based on the level of services required by the group. Boat transportation to and from the site will be provided as part of the day and overnight use access. LDWF biologists will be available upon request for lectures on the ecosystem within the conservation area.

White Lake WCA and the surrounding Mermentau River Basin provide abundant habitat for a variety of avian and aquatic species. The property will seasonally have migrant passerine birds, shorebirds, wading birds, rails, gallinules and the common moorhen. Hawks and owls are also common. Coastal terns and gulls use habitat contained on White Lake at times. Several large breeding rookeries of waders are present on the property. Most notably, along Blackfish Bayou, buttonbush growth supports a rookery with a large number of black-crowned night herons.

GulfSource.org: Louisiana’s Source for Seafood, Water and Sediment Safety Test Results

On October 7, 2011 Louisiana officials announced the launch of GulfSource.org. The site allows the public to view all of the seafood, water, and sediment safety testing information conducted since the 2010 BP Oil Spill under the Louisiana Safety Seafood Plan. Also, GulfSource.org utilizes information from the Louisiana departments of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Health and Hospitals (LDHH), Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).

“Though we’ve been testing seafood, water and sediment since April 30, 2010 in response to the BP oil spill, the information has been difficult to widely distribute to the public until the launch of GulfSource.org,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “We hope the public will utilize GulfSource.org to find out what the safety test results in seafood from areas they fish or from waters they consume reveal. What is truly encouraging is that, to date, not a single sample has failed our safety tests. We now have the tool to share those results with the general public. Rebuilding our seafood brand starts with rebuilding consumer confidence in our product. We hope GulfSource.org helps us accomplish that task.”

“The public should have easy access to food safety information and GulfSource.org is a great companion to the work we’re already doing with eatsafe.la.gov,” DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said. “Transparency of critical health and safety information is a top priority at DHH, where we worked with our state agency partners to publish seafood testing results almost immediately after the BP disaster and throughout the following year. GulfSource takes that work to the next level and allows the world to see for itself that we have the most-tested seafood out there.”

“Now it will be easier for people outside of Louisiana to know what we already know – the seafood is safe and as good as ever,” said DEQ Peggy Hatch. “The goal of the plan was to ensure seafood safety for all the people who enjoy the best seafood in the world. With the launch of this new website, anyone will be able to see the results. This is the culmination of a statewide effort from many agencies to develop and execute a sampling plan like none other.”

Louisiana officials reached an agreement with BP to test seafood, water, and sediment across the Louisiana coast for traces of different toxins called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and for dispersants called Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS).

None of the samples have shown levels of PAHs or dispersants near the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-established “level of concern.” In fact, samples that had shown any minute traces of PAHs, none were above background levels (the levels found in seafood before the oil spill). Test results for dispersants are also available on GulfSource.org.

Through GulfSource.org the public can access information on how testing was conducted, where it was conducted, when it was conducted, and what those results show.