Louisiana waterfowl hunters will have different zones boundaries for the five-year period beginning with the 2016-2017 duck seasons after the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission wrangled its way through weeks of public comment to vote on new zones during its meeting Thursday in Baton Rouge.
The commission also approved, by a 4-3 vote, to end months of debate over the 10 percent dedication of state hunting licenses fees and send as much as $300,000 to Ducks Unlimited each year for the next three years. State law allows these fees to be donated to an organization working to preserve and enhance waterfowl production areas.
As for the new zones, new boundary lines run along U.S. 167 from the Louisiana-Arkansas border south through Alexandria to Turkey Creek in Evangeline Parish, then south along La. 13 to Eunice, then west along U.S. 190 to Kinder, then south on U.S. 165 to Interstate 10, then west to the Louisiana-Texas border. Lands to the west and north of this line form the new West Duck Zone, and lands east of that line make us the western boundary of the new East Zone.
Another boundary line will run from the intersection of I-10 and La. 14 at Lake Charles east to New Iberia, then east along U.S. 90 to the Louisiana-Mississippi line. Lands to the south of this line form the new Coastal Zone. Lands north of this line but east of the West-East zone boundary are included in the new East Zone.
State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds informed the commission that these new boundaries could present a problem when it comes to setting next year’s goose seasons, and recommended that the commission study a two-zone goose-hunting framework.
Reynolds said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules allow states to establish goose zones annually, and that the commission could finalize a new goose-hunting map as late as April. The early preference appears to be for North and South zones, and those boundaries could be outlined in January when the 2016-2017 resident-game and waterfowl seasons are presented to the commission.
Other commission action included:
Introducing Julie Hebert to fill the commission’s seventh spot;
Suspending the crab fishing apprentice program in the Louisiana Fisheries Forward Program after 2013 data showed blue crabs are being overfished in state waters;
Adding 2,805 acres, the Topan Tract, to the Boeuf Wildlife Management Area in Caldwell Parish;
Approving a Notice of Intent to allow “placing of advertising or sponsorship signs on Department of Wildlife and Fisheries assets,” a move following an act by the State Legislature;
Learning that Florida artist John Harris’ work depicting gray ducks was judged the winner of the 2016 Louisiana Duck Stamp Contest;
Learning that LDWF Enforcement Agents issued 490 citations and 298 written warnings during October, and hearing a report of two fatal boating incidents among the eight boating accidents during October;
And, approving its March, 2016 meeting for March 3 in Alexandria.