Legislative update: Hunting regs, Commission appointments and red snapper

Bills covering hunting and fishing, along with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission appointments, moving through Legislature.

The Louisiana Legislature dealt with a few outdoors-related issued today. Here’s a quick look:

The House Natural Resources Committee deferred one bill and passed another today concerning when and how sportsmen can fire their guns.

Approved was House Bill 215 by Rep. Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville), which prohibits taking deer while the animal is swimming or while the shooter is in a water-bound vessel, such as a boat.

Rejected was House Bill 502 by Rep. Richard Burford (R-Stonewall), which would have allowed night hunting of nuisance animals year-round on private property.

“This deals specifically with feral hogs, which is a big problem in Louisiana,” Burford said.

While supported by Farm Bureau, it also drew opposition from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Louisiana Landowners’ Association, Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the Louisiana Forestry Association.

Lawmakers from North Louisiana have complained in recent years that the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is often stacked by governors with appointees from the coast and other southern parishes. There’s some truth to that currently, since only one member of the seven-member commission that guides hunting and fishing regulations is currently from north Louisiana: its chairman Ronnie Graham of Ruston.

Members of the House Natural Resources Committee voted overwhelmingly today to allow voters statewide to make a correction. House Bill 426 by Rep. James Armes (D-Leesville) is a constitutional amendment that would call for two members from the north, three from the south and three to represent the state at-large.

If approved by the Legislature, the amendment will face voters on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot.

House Natural Resources Chairman Gordon Dove (R-Houma), who helped craft the version of the legislation as it stands now, said the current appointment structure already allows the governor to fill several seats with residents from North Louisiana.

“It just so happened that this governor picked them from the south,” Dove said, laughing. “You need a governor from up north.”

To which Armes responded, “People from up north can’t talk Cajun, you know.”


The Senate Natural Resources Committee discussed legislation today that would prohibit the harvest, sale and transportation of red snapper in Louisiana waters.

Senate Bill 157 by Sen. Bret Allain (R-Franklin) is meant as a sort of attention-grabber, and could be voted on next Wednesday by the committee.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has incrementally been shrinking Louisiana’s recreational red snapper seasons, from 194 days in 2004 to just nine days for 2013. Recreational groups, anglers, charter boat captains and lawmakers argue that Gulf red snapper stocks are strong enough to support more fishing, despite the shorter seasons ordered up by the federal government.

Since the new season was announced, the state has taken steps to manage the red snapper fishery on its own and has gone non-compliant in terms of federal regulations by calling its own season.

“I brought this bill mainly out of frustration,” Allain said today. “The main part of what I’m trying to do is get enough people to the table to discuss and give different opinions on the emergency rule.”

To help that process out, Allain also passed this session Senate Resolution 25 requesting that the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce direct officials from the NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office to attend a meeting of the committee.

“I’m very disappointed that they have sent a letter saying they have declined our invitation but will continue to work with our senators and representatives (on Capitol Hill),” Allain said. “They can regulate us and cut our seasons, but they can’t come and explain their reasons for doing such.”

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