As the state rebids leases on its White Lake property, there will be some changes — one of which will allow more people to get coveted duck hunting opportunities.
A reconfiguration of some parcels going up for competitive public bid this summer will free up more acreage to the public hunting area, state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said.
Barham said the agency, starting this fall, will be able to double the hunting opportunities that people vie for in a lottery or drawing each year.
Now there are 24 hunts with three duck hunters per blind, allowing a maximum of 72 hunters. Under the plan, there will be 48 hunts and an opportunity for 144 participants.
Public waterfowl hunts and the lease revenues help pay $1 million annually for operational costs at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area.
Ten-year agriculture and hunting leases on the Vermilion Parish land are expiring this year — the first time since the state became owner of the 71,000 acres of marshland.
BP Amoco donated the land to the state in 2002 and some 17 private duck hunting and agricultural leases continued with the transfer.
The property is home to a lodge and duck hunting.
Legislators approved a state law change during their just-ended regular session so that larger tracts of acreage could be bid out than had previously been legally allowed.
The existing law limits single-leased parcels to 640 acres. But the law was amended for White Lake because some of the agricultural leases from the days when the property was privately owned are far larger than the limits imposed by state law. The largest White Lake lease involved 17,150 acres.
In addition, the legislation gave preferential treatment to current leaseholders by allowing them to match the best bid if they wanted to hold onto the land.
As the state leases the land, Barham said private interests will be able to submit bids on nine tracts. A single lease would cover both hunting and agricultural uses under agency plans, he said.
Today, there are separate hunting and agricultural leases held by a variety of businesses and individuals.
Bid packets detailing land use stipulations and minimum per acre lease costs will be available July 17. Completed bid packages must be returned to Wildlife and Fisheries by the close of business Aug. 17. Winning bids will be announced in September.
“We are leasing the blocks of land,” said Barham. “If a hunter is the high bid they must farm. You are going to get the lease but a provision of the lease requires you to produce agricultural products on the land.”
“Hunting is probably going to drive the train, but in the deal agricultural products must be produced as well. That’s what draw the birds out there.”
The agricultural leases today are for rice, crawfish and grazing.
Barham said the net acreage will be reduced on two of the tracts while one currently held by Gregory E. Kung of Houston will be increased to provide better access.
“You have to go over it so you might as well put it in the lease,” said Barham.
Those interested in the tracts or needing more information can visit http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/white-lake-leases on the agency’s website. Those without access to the website can call (225) 765-2812.