The Advocate has traditionally done what’s right in promoting and protecting Louisiana’s coastal and fisheries resources. However, in the October 17 editorial titled “Our Views on Amendments” this paper’s editorial staff broke with that tradition.
The editorial seems to casually dismiss Amendment 8, designed to constitutionally protect Louisiana’s Artificial Reef Development Fund, as simply another restriction on how state lawmakers can spend funds in lean times. That fund was never intended to be a plug for a leaky state budget. It was created to help retain and create habitat essential to healthy and sustainable recreational fishing in a state nicknamed “Sportsman’s Paradise.” Recreational saltwater fishing in this state is enjoyed by nearly 1 million residents and visitors annually. It supports nearly 18,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion, according to NOAA. The taxes generated benefit a host of conservation and fisheries management initiatives. It is a vital part of our state’s culture and essential to the survival of our coastal communities.
Unfortunately, Louisiana’s Legislature has shortsightedly drained nearly $50 million from the reef fund in the last five years despite the obvious importance of recreational fishing to our quality of life and objections from the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and conservation groups like CCA Louisiana. Also, our state’s constitution forbids the Legislature from using one-time funding sources, like the Artificial Reef Development Fund, for recurring budget expenses.
Hopefully, The Advocate’s editorial staff is not encouraging the Legislature to continue to violate the state’s constitution by saying it is OK for our lawmakers to again raid the reef fund. I also hope The Advocate has more regard for our state’s fisheries resources and the hundreds of thousands of anglers who take pleasure in fishing off our coast while spending millions of dollars to do so in support of our culture and economy.
Thankfully, Louisianans have rightly voted to constitutionally protect the fund dedicated to restoring our coastal wetlands and barrier islands in 1989 and again in 2006, recognizing that funds designed to restore our coastal resources and protect communities are too valuable to be subject to yearly legislative whims. Louisiana voters have the chance to do the right thing again for our coastal resources by providing that same protection to the Artificial Reef Development Fund by voting yes for Amendment 8 despite The Advocate’s lack of endorsement.
CEO, Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana