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LDWF Botanist Chris Reid’s Work to Save Louisiana’s Remaining Coastal Prairie Recognized by Louisiana Wildlife Federation

Release Date: 03/21/2016

LDWF botanist Chris Reid has worked to save Louisiana's remaining coastal prairie land.
This photo of Louisiana coastal prairie was taken in October of 2014, the result of a May 2014 prescribed burn.
LDWF botanist Chris Reid oversees a prescribed burn on coastal prairie land.

March 21, 2016 - The fight to stave off extinction of Louisiana’s remaining coastal prairie might be viewed as an uphill battle, at best.
 
But it’s a fight Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries botanist Chris Reid has taken on with passion. His work has been recognized by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation as an important contribution to Louisiana conservation. Chris has been selected to receive the 2015 Professional Conservationist of the Year Award for the 52nd Governor’s State Conservation Awards program, set for April 2 in Baton Rouge.
 
Prior to the late 1800s, coastal prairie, found extensively in southwest Louisiana, amounted to approximately 2.5 million acres. This once-expansive native grassland is an extension of tall-grass prairies from the eastern Great Plains.
 
Since that time, almost all Louisiana coastal prairie land has been plowed and converted to agriculture. The estimated amount of coastal prairie remaining on the landscape today is 5,000-6,000 acres, nearly all of which is found on private lands.
 
Despite this drastic reduction in acreage, Reid is convinced something substantial can still be done to save Louisiana’s coastal prairie.
 
Most remaining Louisiana coastal prairie is found near Lake Charles, where prairie remnants are primarily used for cattle grazing. This land use may well have prevented the complete loss of this habitat in the state.
 
These prairie rangelands have never been plowed but are degraded. Some of the main prairie grasses have apparently been overgrazed by cattle.  Also, invasion of prairies by trees and shrubs due to lack of adequate prescribed burning is a problem.
 
“We went out to a prairie remnant on a ranch in southwest Louisiana and it was about the second or third one that I had gone to,’’ said Reid, part of the LDWF’s Natural Heritage Program. “And that’s when the light went off. It dawned on us that there was still a chance to do something really meaningful to benefit prairie conservation.’’
 
Since that revelation in 2012, Reid has worked tirelessly to restore coastal prairie. He has cultivated relationships with private landowners in southwest Louisiana to conserve prairies found on their property. Chris has had great success in restoring coastal prairie through several methods, but primarily through prescribed burning, a process of planning and applying fire to a predetermined area to produce desired to benefit prairie plants and control invading woody plants.
 
“Chris’s work to enhance the remnant prairie habitats is bringing visibility to a valuable effort,’’ said Randy Myers, LDWF assistant secretary for the Office of Wildlife.
 
Reid’s work with private landowners in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, all of whom are cattle ranchers, has been key in working to restore coastal prairie. Reid has obtained funding through the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program, which is the primary funding source for the conservation of nongame species and their habitats.  These funds have been used to conduct both research and stewardship activities, including chemical brush control and prescribed burning. Funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program has also been secured to support this work through the next few several years.
 
Reid said the landowners with whom he’s partnered have already seen the numerous benefits of restoring this rare and unique native grassland.
 
“The landowners are interested for several reasons,’’ Reid said. “They are genuinely sympathetic to prairie conservation and care about the land. The practices we’ve employed improve the condition of the range, in addition to benefiting grassland plants and wildlife. Prescribed burning and brush control improves forage quantity and quality. The regrowth of grasses following prescribed burning provides excellent forage quality for cattle.’’
 
Since winter 2014, Reid’s coastal prairie SWG project accomplished prescribed burning on more than 2,000 acres, an impressive total considering the very limited remaining acreage of coastal prairie in the state.
 
“This project was only possible through the dedication of Chris and the support of Louisiana private landowners,’’ said Amity Bass, a biologist director for LDWF.
 
Coastal prairie also serves as a refuge for pollinators, primarily native bees, butterflies, and other insects.
 
“Pollinator conservation is an important issue on today’s landscape,’’ Reid said. “Prairie provides very high plant diversity and therefore abundant nectar and pollen resources for pollinators to sustain pollinator populations, as well as nesting habitat.’’
 
Reid said he’s driven to conserve Louisiana’s coastal prairie because it is a rich part of the natural heritage of Louisiana.
 
“The coastal prairie is an ancient grassland, and is part of our natural heritage just as historical buildings, cemeteries, battlefields, and American Indian sites are part of our cultural heritage,’’ Reid said. “So when we enhance these remnants, we’re really bringing out the true nature of Louisiana. It’s a reminder of what the real Louisiana is like. It really is magical, if given the opportunity to express itself.’’

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LDWF Will Host a National Archery in Schools Program Basic Instructor Certification Course at Florien High School

Release Date: 03/21/2016

LDWF Will Host a National Archery in Schools Program Basic Instructor Certification Course at Florien High School

March 21, 2016 - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will host a National Archery in Schools Program basic instructor certification course Wednesday (March 23) at Florien High School in Sabine Parish.

This eight-hour course will provide necessary certification to instruct students at any school in Louisiana in the NASP curriculum. The course is open to all professional educators as well as conservation organization employees and volunteers. The course will run from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and there is no charge.

The National Archery in the Schools Program teaches international target style archery to students in grades 4-12 and is available to all schools. 

Anyone interested in attending can register online as www.naspschools.org.  For more information, contact Archery in Louisiana Schools state coordinator Robert Stroede at 318-484-2276 or rstroede@wlf.la.gov.

 

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AMENDED: Map Boundaries have been adjusted near MS / LA State line.

Release Date: 03/20/2016

 

News Release

 

For Immediate Release
March 20, 2016

 

Contact: Rene LeBreton

Public Information
LDWF

(504) 286-8745

rlebreton@wlf.la.gov

 

AMENDED: Map Boundaries have been adjusted near MS / LA State line.

Oyster Transplant Permits Available

Map boundaries have been amended near Mississippi / Louisiana state line.

March 20, 2016 - As part of an initiative by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to provide additional harvest opportunities for the Louisiana oyster industry, licensed Louisiana oyster harvesters will be permitted to move oysters from the public oyster seed grounds located in Lake Borgne and Mississippi Sound (DHH harvest areas 1 and 2) in early April and transplant them to their private leases for later harvest. This program is for the purpose of moving live oyster resource from restricted areas of the public oyster seed grounds to private leases.

 

To view a map of the proposed transplant area click here.

 

The two state agencies allow such transplants on a permit-only basis, and will only allow the transplant if the oyster season in this area of the public oyster seed grounds is reopened. Permit applications will be accepted March 14 through March 25, 2016 at 628 N. 4th Street, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

 

The transplant permit fee is $100 and a performance bond of $5,000 must accompany the transplant application. Oyster fishermen who are granted permits will be allowed to transplant during daylight hours between April 1 and April 14, 2016 only, and each transplant vessel must be under the direct supervision of a commissioned officer. All costs associated with the commissioned officer are the responsibility of the person securing the permit. A map identifying the lease where the oysters to be transplanted will be bedded must accompany each permit application.  Incomplete applications will be rejected.

 

Oyster fishermen who receive permits will be allowed to transplant oysters taken from the public oyster seed grounds in Lake Borgne and Mississippi Sound only to a lease pre-approved by DHH. The oysters that are transplanted must remain on the lease until written approval for market harvest is obtained from DHH. No part of any lease on which shellfish have been transplanted may be utilized for direct market harvesting during this period. Shellfish taken for transplanting purposes shall not be laid down within 500 feet of any adjoining lease where shellfish may be taken for sale as food during the active period of the transplant.

 

The Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has the authority to close the oyster season in this area if excessive amounts of non-living reef material are found in the oyster loads that are being transplanted.

 

Applications for transplant permits may be obtained between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, please contact Gordon LeBlanc or Christopher Lemaire, DHH Commercial Seafood Program at 225-342-7539 or 225-342-7540.

 

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.la.gov. To receive recreational or commercial fishing email and text alerts, signup at http://www.wlf.la.gov/signup.

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LDWF Closes Turkey Season, Some Roads at Grassy Lake Wildlife Management Area

Release Date: 03/18/2016

March 17, 2016 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has closed turkey season at the Grassy Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) due to high water levels from flooding.
 
Several roads have also been closed in the Grassy Lake WMA, including North Bayou Natchitoches Road, Bayou Natchitoches Road from the Bayou Des Sot Bridge to Smith Bay and Cas Cas Road.
 
The area is currently inundated with floodwater and water levels are forecast to continue to rise.
 
Increasing water levels in associated river systems have caused backwater flooding on these thoroughfares, resulting in unsafe travel conditions. Once the flood waters recede, road conditions will be assessed and necessary repairs accomplished prior to reopening to vehicular traffic. 
 
Grassy Lake WMA is located in northeastern Avoyelles Parish, approximately 12 miles from Bordelonville.
 
For information on this WMA, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2767 or contact Tony Vidrine or Cody Haynes at 337-948-0255 or tvidrine@wlf.la.gov or jhaynes@wlf.la.gov  .

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LDWF Closes Several Wildlife Management Areas Due to Flooding

Release Date: 03/17/2016

March 17, 2016 - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has closed several wildlife management areas (WMAs) to all activities due to flooding, including Bayou Pierre, Big Lake, Boeuf, Loggy Bayou, and Russell Sage Wildlife Management Areas.
 
This closure includes the upcoming turkey hunting seasons on Boeuf, Big Lake, and Loggy Bayou WMAs.
 
Increasing water levels in associated river systems due to recent heavy rainfall has caused extensive backwater flooding on these wildlife management areas. These areas are almost completely inaccessible by vehicle and hazardous conditions exist due to high water. Once the water recedes, the areas will be assessed for reopening. 
 
Big Lake WMA is located in Franklin, Madison and Tensas parishes and is approximately 12 miles east of Gilbert, north of La. Hwy. 4.
 
Boeuf WMA is located in Caldwell and Catahoula parishes, north and south of La. Hwy. 4 approximately 10 miles southeast of Columbia.
 
Russell Sage WMA is located in Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, and Caldwell Parishes, approximately seven miles east of Monroe and ten miles west of Rayville.
 
Bayou Pierre WMA is located in northwest Red River and east-central Desoto Parishes, 20 miles south of Shreveport.
 
Loggy Bayou WMA is located in Bossier Parish approximately 20 miles southeast of Bossier City.
 
For more information on Boeuf, Big Lake, and Russell Sage WMAs, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2777 or contact Lowrey Moak at 318-343-4044 or lmoak@wlf.la.gov.
 
For more information on Bayou Pierre and Loggy Bayou WMAs, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2777 or contact Jeff Johnson at 318-371-3049 or jjohnson@wlf.la.gov

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LDWF Reopens Roads at J.C. Sonny Gilbert Wildlife Management Area

Release Date: 03/17/2016

March 17, 2016 - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has reopened all roads and trails in the southern portion of J.C. Sonny Gilbert Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The roads and trails providing access to the south end of the WMA from La. Hwy 8 have been inspected and deemed safe for travel.
 
J.C. Sonny Gilbert WMA is located in Catahoula Parish, north of La. Hwy 8 approximately six miles west of Sicily Island.
 
For information on this WMA, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2762  or contact Lowrey Moak at 318-343-4044 or lmoak@wlf.la.gov.

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Energy, Business, Conservation Leaders Call For $1.3 Billion Annual Investment for Wildlife Diversity Conservation

Release Date: 03/16/2016

March 16, 2016 - If Congress follows the March 2 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources, Louisiana and the nation could receive much needed federal money to help avert the growing endangered species crisis.
 
The Panel, assembled by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in 2014, recommended an annual investment of $1.3 billion into the currently unfunded Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program that would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively manage thousands of non-game species facing decline. That would translate into about $19 million a year for Louisiana, compared to current funding levels of less than $1 million.
 
The money would come from a portion of revenue from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters, which generates more than $10 billion dollars each year.
 
The funds would help the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to proactively manage these non-game species, reducing taxpayer costs and the regulatory red tape that comes when species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The number of species petitioned for listing under the Act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade.
 
The Blue Ribbon Panel includes representatives from state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups, higher education, the automotive industry, the energy sector, the outdoor recreation manufacturing and retail sectors, as well as private landowners.
 
The panel was headed by John L. Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, and former Wyoming governor David Freudenthal. It convened three times and determined that an increased investment in fish and wildlife conservation makes fiscal sense and is needed to protect the nation’ natural heritage.
 
The goal of the panel was to produce recommendations and policy options on a sustainable and equitable model for the conservation of all fish and wildlife species in the United States. For over 75 years, the highly successful Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) and Sport Fish Restoration (Dingell-Johnson) programs have been the cornerstone of North American conservation, and have exemplified the partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state fish and wildlife agencies.
 
However, in recent years the number of species petitioned for listing under the ESA has increased by more than 1,000 percent, highlighting the need for robust funding for the conservation of at-risk species of fish and wildlife.
 
Since 2001, the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program has been the primary funding source for wildlife diversity conservation in the U.S. However, funding levels for the SWG Program have not been sufficient to address the conservation needs of the over 12,000 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified by the states in their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). The recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel seek to close that funding gap, and help prevent future ESA listings.
 
 
If the recommendations of the panel are followed, the LDWF would be able to more effectively implement the Louisiana Wildlife Action Plan and ensure the minimization of future ESA listings. These efforts will benefit not only fish and wildlife, but also hunters, anglers, wildlife viewers, and private industry by increasing wildlife associated recreation opportunities, reducing regulation and creating jobs.
 
For more information, contact LDWF’s Sam Holcomb at 225-765-0239 or sholcomb@wlf.la.gov.
 
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
 

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Over 2,500 Abandoned Traps Removed from Louisiana Waters During LDWF Derelict Crab Trap Rodeo

Release Date: 03/16/2016

LDWF Caolina Bourque collects an accurate count.
Volunteers unload abandoned traps from a vessel during the volunteer day on Lake Pontchartrain.

(March 15, 2016) - Over the course of two February weekends, volunteers, staff and members of the commercial fishing industry retrieved more than 2,500 traps during the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ annual Derelict Crab Trap Rodeo.
 
Two events were held on separate Saturdays, but cleanup efforts continued in the designated areas throughout the closure period.
 
The Lake Pontchartrain cleanup, headed by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, was based out of Pelican Pointe Marina in Orleans Parish on February 13. Volunteers from LPBF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana worked with LDWF personnel to collect 554 traps during the event, and LDWF and LPBF staff continued to collect an additional 832 traps during the closure for a grand total of 1,386 traps removed.
 
John Lopez with LPBF said, “Picking up the ghost traps is hard, but very rewarding work. We thank all the volunteers and sponsors who support this worthwhile effort.”
 
The Barataria Basin cleanup, headed by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, was staged out of Jean Lafitte Harbor in Jefferson Parish on February 20. Volunteers from BTNEP, local CCA chapters and commercial crabbers worked in coordination with the Department to collect 874 traps. During the remaining closure period, an additional 320 traps were collected, for a total of 1,194 traps removed. 
 
Seth Moncrief of BTNEP was extremely appreciative of the outpouring of support, “Thanks to everyone who helped with the 2016 Derelict Crap Trap Rodeo. It was a great effort that removed four thirty-yard dumpsters worth of traps from the waters near Lafitte.”
 
LDWF initiated the volunteer-based Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program in 2004 to address removal of derelict and abandoned crab traps. The program is funded in part by the sale of Louisiana commercial and recreational crab fishing licenses. Since the program’s inception, volunteers have assisted in removing nearly 27,366 traps. Removal of these traps is imperative since they increase ghost-fishing mortality of blue crabs and other species captured incidentally, interfere with other commercial fishing gear types, create navigational hazards and reduce visual appeal of the environment.
 
The success of these events would not be possible without the support of the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary Foundation, Boat Stuf Discount Marine Supplies, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Marsh and Bayou, Southside Grill and members of the general public.

NOAA Fisheries to Host Public Meetings this April in LA to Discuss Potential Skimmer Trawl Regulations

Release Date: 03/15/2016

(March 15, 2016) – NOAA Fisheries is considering new regulations in the shrimp fishery of the southeastern United States.  Citing new information that sea turtles are vulnerable to capture by skimmer trawls and that tow times may not be as effective in reducing bycatch-related mortality as turtle excluder devices, NOAA is considering new regulations. NOAA will host two public meetings in Louisiana to discuss and receive input from fishermen and other constituents on this issue.
 
Meeting schedule is below:

  • Larose, LA -- April 18, 2016, 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., Larose Regional Park and Civic Center, 307 East 5th Street, Larose, LA 70373.
  • Belle Chasse, LA -- April 19, 2016, 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., Belle Chasse Community Center, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA 70037.

Commercial shrimpers are encouraged to provide their input regarding potential changes to shrimp regulations.
 
Below are links to documents created by NOAA to help you prepare for the public meetings.
 
NOAA FAQs
NOAA Scoping Document

 

LDWF Closes Roads at Joyce, Maurepas Swamp WMAs Because of Flooding

Release Date: 03/15/2016

March 15, 2016 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has closed roads at the Joyce and Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) because of flooding.
 
Boyce Tower Road and the road leading into the Crusel Tract have been closed at the Maurepas Swamp WMA. The parking area at the Joyce WMA swamp walk off Old U.S. Hwy. 51 has also been closed.
 
Increasing water levels in the associated river and tributary systems has created backwater flooding on these roads. Road closures are implemented in the interest of public safety. Once the water recedes and conditions allow, the roads will be reopened.
 
Joyce WMA is a 27,487 acre tract located in southern Tangipahoa Parish five miles south of Hammond. For more information on the WMA, go to: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2774.
 
Maurepas Swamp WMA, which consists of 122,098 acres, is located approximately 25 miles west of New Orleans and along the south shore of Lake Maurepas west to near Sorrento. The WMA includes property in Ascension, Livingston, St. John the Baptist, St. James and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on the WMA, go to: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2791.
 
For more information, contact Forest Burks at fburks@wlf.la.gov or 985-543-4781.

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