While Louisiana's first wildlife conservation law was passed way back in 1857, and many regulations regarding oysters were passed in the late 1800s, it was not until 1909 that a formal body was appointed and given the task of overseeing wildlife and fisheries conservation in the state. In 1909, Governor John Parker, an avid conservationist and friend and hunting partner of President Theodore Roosevelt, convinced the Louisiana Legislature to create the Louisiana Board of Commissioners for the Protection of Birds, Game and Fish. One year later, in 1910, the Louisiana Oyster Commission (which had been created in 1902) merged with the Board of Commissioners to create the Louisiana Department of Conservation.
Act 127 of 1912 constitutionally created the Conservation Commission of Louisiana as a department of Louisiana's state government, with the mission of providing for the protection of the state's birds, fish, shellfish, wild quadrupeds, forestry and mineral resources.
Act 105 of 1918 changed the name of the agency back to the Department of Conservation and directed that it be controlled by an officer known as the Commissioner of Conservation, who would be appointed by the Governor, by and with the consent of the Senate, for a term of four years.
The Department of Conservation continued in the role of lead agency in charge of wildlife and fisheries conservation until the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was officially created on December 11, 1944, in accordance with the terms of a Constitutional Amendment approved by the people of Louisiana on November 7, 1944.
This amendment separated the former Department of Conservation into three independent state agencies: the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Forestry Commission, and a new Department of Conservation.
Initially, the new Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was directed by a Commissioner, who was appointed by the Governor. Governor Jimmie H. Davis appointed John G. Appel as the first Commissioner of the Department.
In 1952, another Constitutional Amendment changed the name of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and also established a commission of seven members to oversee and direct the activities of the agency. For day-to-day management and administration, the Commission was directed to appoint (hire) a Director of the Commission.
This confusing terminology, with a commission (board) managing the Commission (agency), continued until 1974, when the new Louisiana Constitution was completed and approved by voters. All of the old sections and amendments regarding normal functioning and administration of the agency were removed from the Constitution, retaining only the language regarding the composition and appointment of the seven-member Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, as follows:
Section 7. (A) Members; Terms. The control and supervision of the wildlife of the state, including all aquatic life, is vested in the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. The commission shall be in the executive branch and shall consist of seven members appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Six members shall serve overlapping terms of six years, and one member shall serve a term concurrent with that of the governor. Three members shall be electors of the coastal parishes and representatives of the commercial fishing and fur industries, and four shall be electors from the state at large other than representatives of the commercial fishing and fur industries, as provided by law. No member who has served six years or more shall be eligible for reappointment.
(B) Duties; Compensation. The functions, duties, and responsibilities of the commission, and the compensation of its members, shall be provided by law.
(Constitution of the State of Louisiana (1974), Article IX - Natural Resources, §7. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission)
The Louisiana Legislature subsequently created the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) as part of Act 720 of 1975, the Executive Reorganization Act, which legislated the establishment of 20 cabinet level state agencies. The name and administrative structure of LDWF were codified in R.S. 36: §601-609, and §610 details (43) commissions and preserves that were transferred into the new department.
While Act 720 changed the role of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission from administration to policy-making, the make-up of the Commission remains essentially the same today as when it was first conceived back in 1952: six members with 6-year terms plus one member whose term runs concurrently with the Governor. Three of the seven members are to be representatives of the commercial fishing and fur industries from the coastal parishes, and four members are "other than representatives of the commercial fishing and fur industries" from the state at-large.
The seven current members of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, with their appointed role and term completion date, are:
Mr. Chad J Courville, Chairman
Chad J.Courville is a lifelong Louisiana resident who resides in Lafayette and is employed as the land manager for Miami Corporation. He is currently chairman of the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council and a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the Coastal Conservation Association, and the Louisiana Association of Professional Biologists.
Courville received his Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Sustainable Resources from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then USL). He and wife Kylee have two children.
Reason for serving: “It is a great honor to serve the people of the State of Louisiana, and with my fellow Commissioners, as we strive to manage fish and wildlife populations within Louisiana’s vast habitats. I have been very blessed to have parents who exposed me to Louisiana’s outdoors, and I look forward to my time with fellow Commissioners to ensure that my children, and future generations, have that same opportunity.”
“Louisiana’s wildlife and fisheries resources cannot be taken for granted. There are numerous pressures on those resources from habitat loss to special interest groups. I look forward to communicating with LDWF’s knowledgeable, experienced staff, utilizing the best available science and data, and gaining public sentiment to make informed decisions on how we move forward in responsible management and utilization.”
Mr. Courville can be contacted at:
309 La Rue France, Suite 201
Lafayette, La 70508
Phone: (337) 264-1695
Fax: (337) 264-9499
Mr. William D. “Bill’’ Hogan, Vice Chairman
William D. Hogan is a longtime Louisiana resident who lives in Ruston, La. He is the President and CEO of Ruston Bank. Hogan was born in Nashville, Tenn., grew up in Fort Smith, Ark., and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in finance. He moved to Louisiana in 1989. He and his wife Kelly of 25 years have two daughters, Taylor and Natalie.
A member of Ducks Unlimited for 25 years, Hogan has served as state chairman of DU and is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation. He also has been active in several organizations in the Ruston area. He is vice president of the Louisiana Tech University Foundation and served as chairman of the Ruston-Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. He was campaign chairman and a board member of the United Way.
Reason for serving: “As an avid outdoorsman and a long-time Louisiana resident, I am honored to serve and support the state in its efforts to conserve, protect and wisely use our abundant hunting and fishing habitat, species and opportunities with which we are uniquely blessed,’’ Hogan said.
“I believe we all have obligations to act as stewards of these natural resources and ensure that our rich outdoor traditions and culture are managed and maintained for current and future generations to enjoy. I am truly honored to be appointed as a commissioner by Governor John Bel Edwards and pledge to work for the people of Louisiana to help keep our state as the true Sportsman’s Paradise.’’
Mr. Hogan can be contacted at:
2317 Soyars Circle
Ruston, LA 71270
Mr. Edwin “Pat” Manuel
Pat Manuel is a lifelong resident of Eunice, who received his education through Catholic school. He is currently the President of ManCo Vegetation Management Inc., as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Tri-Parish Bank. Pat’s affiliations with conservation organizations include Ducks Unlimited, Waterfowl USA, and Delta Waterfowl. He has served as Louisiana Public Service Commissioner and Louisiana State Racing Commissioner.
Reason for serving on the Commission: “I want to thank Governor Bobby Jindal for this appointment to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. We share a passion for the love of Louisiana’s outdoors and commitment to help preserve the resources of our state.”
Mr. Edwin “Pat” Manuel
P.O. Box 1046
Eunice, LA 70535
Phone: (337) 457-0101
FAX: (337) 457-7401
Mr. Robert J. Samanie III
Commercial fishing and fur industry representative
Term runs concurrent with the Governor
Robert J. “Bobby” Samanie, a lifelong Louisiana resident, is vice-president of Lafitte Frozen Foods Corp. in St. Bernard Parish, one of the largest shrimp processors on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Terrebonne Parish native served as president of the American Shrimp Processors Association. He also has served on the Governor’s Task Force on Shrimp Management, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, the Louisiana Shrimp Industry Review Panel, the Louisiana Seafood Standards of Identity Task Force and the Louisiana Seafood Industry Advisory Board.
Reason for serving: “The experience I have allows me to understand the good fortunes as well as some of the problems facing our fisheries especially in the state of Louisiana. Louisiana has an abundance of natural resources for the all of the people to use and enjoy. It is our duty to leave the resources in better shape for our children and grandchildren. We must strive to keep it sustainable."
Mr. Samanie can be contacted at:
4420 Tracy St.
Meraux, LA 70075
Mr. Alfred R. Sunseri
New Orleans, LA
Commercial fishing and fur industry representative
Alfred R. “Al’’ Sunseri, the owner and general manager of New Orleans’ P&J Oyster Co., is a lifelong Louisiana resident. He has owned and managed his family oyster business and has been an advocate of the Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico oyster industry since 1985.
He was a founding member of the Gulf Oyster Industry Council and has served on several oyster boards. Sunseri, who lives in New Orleans, graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond with a degree in business administration in 1980.
In addition to serving on several boards, Sunseri has helped draft state laws and regulations relating to the oyster industry and coastal restoration. He currently serves on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation, the Louisiana Oyster Dealers and Growers Association, the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, the Gulf Oyster Industry Council and the
Louisiana Restaurant Association. He also was a member of the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference and the National Fisheries Institute.
Sunseri is married to Sally Lincks Sunseri and they have three children, Blake, Alexandra and Victoria.
Reason for serving: “Our family has been involved in the oyster industry for more than 140 years as well as involved in creating the old Oyster Commission in 1902. I have been a champion of the oyster industry with a lot of help from my family and friends during my 37-year career running our oyster house in the French Quarter.
“I look forward to bringing my experience and expertise to the commission in the oyster business and as a proponent of coastal restoration.’’
Mr. Sunseri can be contacted at:
1039 Toulouse St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
Ms. Jerri G. Smitko
Commercial fishing and fur industry representative
Jerri G. Smitko is an attorney and the owner of Smitko Law, APLC, in Houma. She is a graduate of Nicholls State University and Tulane law school and has one son, Maxwell Smitko.
Among her many positions held since graduating Tulane law school in 1986, Smitko was chair of the Louisiana Indigent Defense Assistance Board from 2006-09, was on the board of directors for the Terrebonne Parish Indigent Defenders Office from 2000-06 and on the board of commissioners of the Terrebonne General Hospital Service District No. 1 from 1997-2009.
She was also special legal counsel to Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government from 1992-98 and the assistant parish attorney for the same body from 1988-92.
Smitko is a member of the American Bar Association, Louisiana and Terrebonne Parish bar associations and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. She served in the Louisiana Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve until her honorable discharge in 1985.
Reason for serving: “As a lifelong sportswoman, a licensed commercial fisherman and an attorney with more than 30 years in practice, I understand how important the law is in protecting our natural resources. I also have a deep appreciation for those who rely on those resources for their livelihood, sustenance and enjoyment. I am eager to champion the causes of our commercial fishermen and trappers who have served as the backbone of the bayou communities for generations.’’
Ms. Smitko can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 1669
Houma, LA 70361
Mr. Bart R. Yakupzack
Lake Charles, LA
Bart R. Yakupzack is lifelong resident of south Louisiana, which has been his family’s home for over four generations. Bart and his wife Kathryn are raising their two children in Lake Charles. Bart received both a Bachelor of Science in wildlife and fisheries and a law degree from Louisiana State University. He has practiced oil and gas and land management related law for his entire career. Bart serves as Senior Vice President of Jack Lawton Companies.
Bart also serves as Vice Chair – Governmental Affairs of the Chamber Southwest - SWLA Economic Development Alliance. He is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, CCA Louisiana, National Rifle Association, Louisiana Forestry Association and the LSU FWF Alumni Association. He also serves as the president of the Lake Charles Chapter of the NWTF.
Reason for serving: “It is an honor to have been appointed to serve our State in regard to one of its assets that I am so passionate about. I consider myself blessed to have been exposed to the unique natural resources of Louisiana early in life and often. Louisiana’s wildlife and fisheries habitats, whether in a recreational or commercial setting, have cultivated people and a culture that our state and our country cannot do without.”
“In serving, I will aim to help conserve and replenish our state’s renewable natural resources so that parents and grandparents of young children in Louisiana, now and in the future, can offer the same opportunities or even better opportunities as they were afforded as children growing up here.”
Mr. Yakupzack can be contacted at:
1450 William St., Second Floor
Lake Charles, LA 70601