Agency directed to show map to landowners first

The marshes of South Central Louisiana offer more than just spectacular bass fishing.

Louisiana politics. You just gotta love it.

In the war to keep tidal waterways open to the public, one side keeps winning the battles, and it ain’t the ones wearing white hats.

It’s not really difficult to understand why when you consider the arbiters in this struggle are like dealers who reach into their pockets and serve from a deck of aces to one of the players.

The latest stacking of the deck may prove to be the most costly yet.

About a year ago, the governor shielded criticism that she was mute on the public’s right to access all tidal waters by supporting a move to provide funding to the State Land Office to map out exactly what is public and what is private along the coast.

Well, that map is being produced, but as Sportsman staffer Andy Crawford has learned and reports in this issue, the Louisiana Landowners Association has asked for the right to review the map before it is released to the public.

That’s not surprising. If I had exclusive access to public property — like, say, my own section of Tensas National Wildlife Refuge for deer hunting — I’d probably be concerned about my section of paradise being exposed as public property.

What’s disturbing is that the state seems to have no objections to the LLA’s request.

In an email from the Office of the Governor, Scott Kirkpatrick asks Blanco’s Executive Counsel Terry Ryder how the state should handle the request.

“I am fine with … their suggestion of the State Land Office setting up a procedure where affected landowners could see what may be proposed in a specific area to allow landowners to provide their input,” Ryder responds.

Kirkpatrick then sends the email stream to Charlie St. Romain, head of the State Land Office, with a note to “please see guidance below from Terry (Ryder) on how to respond. …”

St. Romain got the message loud and clear.

In an interview with Crawford, he attempted to justify the decision to give landowners, but apparently no other parties, the right to object to details on the map on the front end.

“They’re more familiar with their property,” he said. “They might have some information that we’re not aware of.”

A process that was supposed to take three more years will now be tied up for all eternity while landowners make claims to lands that may or may not be theirs, and water bodies that shouldn’t be. The state will then be forced to investigate the intricate details of every single claim, and any landowners who are told what they don’t want to hear will certainly take the matter to court.

This map will have a tremendous impact on outdoorsmen as well as landowners, so why is one group being allowed to see it before it is released but the other is not?

The governor should direct the State Land Office to research its claims to the best of its ability, and release the map before any special-interest group gets to dispute it.

Otherwise, we’ll be lucky to see that map while any of us are still alive.

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About Todd Masson 606 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.

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