Conservation 2012 Style
Just over 70 years ago, the Louisiana Department Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), then called the Department of Conservation, printed an article boasting of taking broad steps into the future of conserving Louisiana’s natural resources. Although written a couple generations ago, I found it a fitting description of LDWF today.
In the Louisiana Conservationist Review 1941 summer issue, the editorial was titled “Conservation 1941 Style.” It reflected on an article from the New Orleans Item (a daily newspaper published 1902 – 1958) that reminded citizens of the Department’s function to promote wildlife. This reminder was met with surprise from citizens because most thought of the Department as “…an agency for the collection of licenses for fishing, hunting, shrimping, oil-drilling and the like.” The remainder of the editorial is what prompted me to make some comparisons between 1941 and 2012.
The editorial went on to point out major changes in the way conservation was handled.
“The picture now changes abruptly,” states the Item. “Enforcement Chief Don Simon goes so far as to conduct a school to instruct conservation agents in their duties, with a faculty of lawyers, biologists, conservationists, mechanics and riggers.
“On the heels of this, Major James Brown begins turning our neglected Spillway area into big reservoirs of breeding stock for game fish to be used in replenishing the State’s depleted waters.”
Yes times do change. And Conservation in Louisiana is now on a business-like streamlined basis. A long-range sound conservation program is under way, and real progress has been made, with the result that the Louisiana Conservation Commission is now recognized as one of the best and most efficient throughout the nation.
It may have been 71 years ago, but they were right on the money. In addition, the last statement, “…one of the best and most efficient throughout the nation,” still holds true today.
In 1941, it was a major step for the Enforcement Division to provide training to the agents. Today, LDWF Enforcement Division is tops among state agencies in search and rescue (SAR) procedures and results. Their skills and training have been used repeatedly since their abrupt, but successful Hurricane Katrina SAR missions when they rescued more than 22,000 individuals. Their forensic skills, undercover operations and water patrols are first rate and are called upon by fellow enforcement agencies.
In 1941, the concept of using spillways as breeding reservoirs ultimately led to LDWF’s successful stocking program. In the 1940s Lake St. John, Lake Providence, Lake Concordia and Lake Buren all received fish transplanted from other areas of the state. Over the years, the stocking program has been crucial to several restoration programs such as the Atchafalaya Basin restoration after Hurricane Andrew and the Red River restoration in the 2001. The program’s purpose, then and now, is to restore, maintain and enhance Louisiana’s public freshwater fisheries for the benefit of the resource and the public.
This 2012 summer issue reflects on our accomplishments as well, but in a slightly different way. This issue continues the discussion on coastal restoration, and we look at one of many programs on endangered species, specifically tagging and tracking the Louisiana pine snake.
Is LDWF still on a business-like streamlined basis for conservation? Are we still working on a long-range conservation plan, making real progress? You bet! However, it is now “Conservation 2012 Style.”