Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Private Lands Program
There are now 13 wildlife biologists throughout the state whose primary responsibility is to help private landowners and land managers with their wildlife management activities. Private Lands Biologists (PLBs) can perform a variety of duties on private properties around the state. One of the most common activities is assisting landowners and hunting clubs with management of their deer herd. This may involve established programs such as the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) which provides landowners with tags and guidance regarding their deer harvest. Other landowners simply want advice and suggestions to help them manage their harvest. Even though deer get a lot of attention, assistance from PLBs is not limited to deer. Private Lands biologists can also help landowners with dove field establishment, management of waterfowl impoundments, forest management, and general habitat management for a wide variety of wildlife.
One of the most important things these biologists do is to listen. Landowners own and manage land for a variety of reasons. For some it is purely for recreation, for others, income generation is a very important consideration. Some landowners and managers have the desire and resources to engage in very intensive management, while others take a low maintenance approach. Some landowners have very specific interests, bobwhite quail management, for example. Others simply want to see and enjoy a wide array of wildlife on their property. The assistance provided by the Private Lands Program is guided by the objectives, needs and resources of the landowner.
The department’s private lands biologists are familiar with a variety of programs and sources of funding that can provide financial assistance for management. Not all landowners need or want financial assistance, but for those who do, funding may be available for practices such as prescribed burning, tree planting, native grassland establishment, field border development, or invasive plant control. Navigating the myriad of funding sources can be daunting for many landowners, but PLBs can be a valuable resource to help landowners find the financial assistance they need.
While landowners will have varying interests and needs, one common thread in all private lands work is the need for the biologist to evaluate the quality and quantity of the habitat. The biologist may conduct a systematic assessment such as a browse survey or may be able to evaluate the habitat simply by an overall inspection of the property. The biologist will be evaluating the amount of food and cover the property provides and noting factors that limit the abundance of wildlife on the property. One thing that will receive consideration is how the property fits into the landscape. In other words, what kind of habitat does the neighboring property provide and how does that impact the subject property? This landscape consideration is most important on smaller tracts. Once the biologist has completed the habitat evaluation, a plan can be developed.
The plan can range from a simple conversation with the landowner to a comprehensive written document. Landowners are encouraged to seek a written plan to help them maintain a long-term and consistent management approach. Even the best plan will have to be modified as experience and conditions dictate, so landowners are encouraged to maintain contact with their PLB. The landowner and PLB should regularly evaluate the habitat, assess the impacts of management and make changes when needed.
Some landowners may already be working with a natural resource professional such as a consultant forester. The PLB will not replace these other professionals, but will work closely with them to integrate the landowner’s wildlife objectives with other management objectives and programs. If the landowner is not working with other natural resource professionals, but needs their assistance, the PLP can help find one.
The department’s PLBs can be a valuable resource for landowners and managers. Each PLB is responsible for 4-7 parishes and is familiar with local conditions, activity on other properties and programs that can benefit local landowners. PLBs may be able to offer ideas and suggestions that landowners may not have considered. For instance, landowners in some areas may want to consider replanting a harvested loblolly pine stand with longleaf pine, others may benefit from using native vegetation as a food plot to reduce costs, still others may find that creation of small openings in the forest are an effective way to improve habitat.
There is no cost to landowners to utilize the services of the department’s PLBs (there is a cost associated with enrollment in the Deer Management Assistance Program). Whether interested in hummingbirds or trophy bucks, looking for a comprehensive management plan or simply have a management question, your local PLP can help. Contact one of these professional biologists to help you improve your wildlife habitats, today. Offices are located in Monroe (318/343-4044), Minden (318/371-3052), Pineville (318/487-5885), Lake Charles (337/491-2575), Hammond (985/543-4777), Opelousas (337/948-0255), and New Iberia (337/373-0032).