In spite of budget cuts, continued problems with the BP oil spill and a plethora of other challenges, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham feels good about the Department's accomplishments during the year just ended and is optimistic about the opportunities for the agency in 2012.
We caught up with Barham earlier this week and asked him to assess LDWF's major accomplishments during 2011 and what he expects for the year just beginning.
"Because of financial restraints, we're all challenged to stay within our means so that we may be able to continue providing sporting opportunities for our residents and guests who come here to enjoy what Louisiana has to offer," Barham began.
One of the more exciting accomplishments the Secretary mentioned was LDWF's efforts to reintroduce a former resident of our state, one that has been gone from the wild for more than half a century.
"We're working in tandem with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to bring the whooping crane back to the state.
We haven't had these birds living in the wild in Louisiana since the 1950s and it's exciting to think they'll be living here again," Barham added.
There are fewer than 700 whooping cranes in existence and they are undoubtedly the most endangered crane in the world. This past March, 10 cranes were released on the White Lake Wetlands Conservation area near Gueydan and of this number, three have survived.
"We had relatively good success with this first release until two were shot by poachers. On December 1, we released 16 more on White Lake giving us a good possibility of getting these birds back into the wild in Louisiana, which is pretty exciting to us," Barham said.
Among other 2011 accomplishments Barham spelled out was the return of a historical north Louisiana wetland mecca, Wham Brake, to LDWF with work continuing to add another such area, Bussey Brake, both of which were owned by International Paper Co.
"We want to bring these properties back to their former days of glory, areas that were famous nationwide for their wonderful waterfowl hunting," he added.
Looking ahead, Barham is excited about a proposal currently before BP Petroleum to build a saltwater fish hatchery.
"We have one of the finest marine labs in the country at Grand Isle and getting the fish hatchery project done is something we'll all be proud of," Barham continued.
The population of Louisiana black bears is growing around the state, a subspecies that is currently protected as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act of 1992. Barham says the LDWF is working to have the Louisiana black bear de-listed.
"We've been involved with the USFWS in a long-range project to see these animals, with populations that are growing, removed from the threatened and endangered list. This is not so much about us getting to hunt bears in the state as it is the recognition of the success we've had in bringing the bear back. We're confident we have the numbers and by 2013, their population should reach the point of them becoming de-listed where we'll start the process of giving our residents the opportunity to hunt black bears in Louisiana once again," Barham said.
The year 2011 saw some concrete accomplishments by the LDWF and Barham expects more good things to take place in 2012.
Said Barham, "We're going to have an exciting year, I believe."
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.