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Advocate staff photo by JOE MACALUSO Ryan Lambert began his fishing and waterfowl guiding service more than 40 years and called Buras his home base. Lambert now divides his time between guiding customers and advocating for using the Mississippi River's natural building material, the sediment it carries in its waters to Louisiana, to rebuild the marshes through cuts the river made in its natural levees on the east side of the river. In the background is one of the reef-building projects, a process that began with building terraces in bays east of a natural diversion near old Fort St. Phillip. "Shrimpers used to trawl here a couple of years ago, and I had a duck blind (in the background), but this process has worked so well that I can't even get a mudboat to that blind now," Lambert said. "It's on dry ground in the fall and winter and ducks will be walking on what you see behind me and feeding on duck potatoes that grow on the terraces."

With a nod to President Franklin Roosevelt and his “Day of Infamy” speech which launched our country into World War II, can we bid goodbye to this “Year of Infamy” for our state and our country.

Because there were some sunshiny days amidst all this gloom — and there’s no need to dwell on the hard times — it’s time to put a different cast on 2020 and the outdoors.

The awards

It was good to see Cajun Fishing Adventures’ founder and head man Ryan Lambert get recognition for spearheading the drive to restore marshes on the east side of the Mississippi River in the Bay Denesse area.

Lambert laid the groundwork for terracing projects using the river’s flow through natural cuts to deposit silt, projects which have turned degraded marsh in dry land. He volunteered his time and money to guide state and national political leaders, media and coastal restoration activists to show them the restorative effects opening the delta can have on our subsiding marshes.

In short, Lambert proved our country’s mightiest river can do the same work it did when it created most of the land we Louisianans live on today.

His work landed him the Volunteer Conservationist of the Year, an award he received earlier this year from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.

Others winning the prized LWF statuettes for their conservation work included:

Wendy Rihner, educator conservationist, for her “Native Plants for Birds” program.

Eric Vanbergen, youth conservationist, for his work “promoting native plant and coastal prairie restoration” in his school in Lafayette.

Emma Reid, conservation communicator, for her writing and production of “In the Blind,” a documentary that aired on Louisiana Public Broadcasting on the value of duck hunting in Louisiana, and how duck hunters have worked to preserve and restore critical waterfowl habitat.

New Orleans’ Giant Salvinia Control Patrol, a conservation organization, for its work removing as much as 10 tons of invasive giant salvinia from Bayou St. John.

Archery in Louisiana Schools, a conservation youth organization, for engaging more than 20,000 students in more than 200 schools across the state in the value of engaging in an outdoors activity. Wildlife and Fisheries program manager Chad Moore said the program has produced near 20 national champions in three categories and earned its archers $20,500 in college scholarships.

And, Edison Chouest Offshore, a corporate conservationist.

Fishing

While it appeared speckled trout catches rebounded from two previous average-catch years, the discussion of lowering daily trout limits and, possibly, increasing the minimum keeper-size length generated a major share of the fishing talk in 2020.

The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission delayed taking action on speckled trout until the next stock assessment, but it’s sure to come up again in 2021.

After the commission went thumbs down on taking action on the rancor the commercial menhaden fleet has raised among recreational fishermen in our state, it’s only the beginning of what will become a confrontational issue in the coming months and years. It’s just that the first big volleys of protest came this year.

Red snapper continued to be a topic after a new study showed near three times the stock size in the Gulf of Mexico as has been reported by federal managers, and it appears Gulf States recreational anglers are headed for some decrease in mangrove snapper limits in the near future.

Waterfowl

It’s still too early to call the 2020-21 duck season a bust, but it appears hunters will need more cold fronts like the one that blew in Christmas Eve to push more birds into our state. The season’s first split-opening weekend was good as most usually are, but numbers waned in the next days, and the second split opener (Dec. 19-20) wasn’t good.

The oddity is how few teal have been showing up in the hunters’ take. Gray ducks, pintail and ringnecks were dominating takes early in the second split.

If Arctic cold continues to dominate the Midwest and snow covers ducks feeding grounds up north, then we could have solid late December into January hunting.

A bonus

Although we don’t see the effects of much of the Trump Administration’s effort to open up more federal lands to fishing and hunting, tens of thousands of American outdoorsmen will. The outgoing administration heeded the call from hunters and fishermen to free up millions of acres for these men and women, who, for decades, have paid for most of the conservation efforts in our country.

Wildfires

Isn’t it time to put a national forestry plan in place?

We, here, heard the openly vile criticism of us Louisianans for building our homes in storm-, flood- and storm surge-prone areas, but what about the folks who build their homes in the middle of the woods, forested areas they know will go through periods of drought and become tinder for the first lightning strike, arsonist or careless fire-building camper?

A national forestry plan would designate old-growth areas and mandate no habitable dwellings there, and employ a rotational tree-harvesting program that would eliminate threats of major wildlife fires which seem to be as much a threat out west as they are from the hurricanes us “Easterners” face annually.