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|Barham discusses LDWF at chamber|
Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), was the guest speaker at Thursday's Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Princess Room.
Barham, a native of Oak Ridge, is the former District 33 senator, a position he held for almost 14 years. He's moved easily into his new position, combining his years of political and legislative experience with his love of the hunting and fishing and the outdoors.
There has been an increasing decline in the number of hunting and fishing licenses issued in the state, and Barham's department is feeling it.
"Society has changed," Barham said, noting that when he was a boy, he would hunt before and after school. "Kids today don't head to the woods or the lake, they head for video games or the mall."
The LDWF is the only state agency not funded by tax dollars, its revenues come from licenses, boat registrations, fines and mineral rights.
"We don't operate with your (tax) money," Barham said.
Like most agencies and businesses in today's economic climate, LDWF is being asked to do more with less.
"We are challenged with enforcing state laws on 42,000 square miles of land and state and federal regulations up to 200 miles out in the gulf," he said. "I have fewer enforcement agents than the number of deputies on staff in 16 parishes."
Barham said he's been daily lobbying the legislature for funds, and commented dryly, "You know, in Baton Rouge money is everything."
While he is struggling with enforcement, Barham's department is also ramping up to deal with the threat of flooding, particularly in central and south Louisiana.
"I made an emergency order yesterday to open oyster season in Lake Bourne," Barham said.
Lake Bourne is home to the state's major oyster beds. He explained that went the Bonnet Carre and Morganza spillways are opened to keep New Orleans from flooding, the fresh water will kill the oyster beds.
"It (fresh water) takes about 72 hours for it to percolate through Lake Pontchartrain to reach those oyster beds. When that fresh water goes over the beds it wipes them out."
Barham said Louisiana supplies 30 percent of the nation's seafood to restaurants and grocery stores.
Barham said flooding stresses the state's wildlife as well as its people.
"Turkey, bear, deer, they are all going to be impacted. Floods are awfully tough on our wildlife stock. They are hard on people and wildlife," he said.
Another problem facing LDWF is the invasive aquatic plant, the giant salvinia. This native of Brazil was introduced into Toledo Bend, probably from an aquarium or backyard landscaping, and quickly multiplied. He said it has infested Lake Bistineau near Shreveport and that's where people from his department are looking for a solution to its rampant growth. This plant can double its area coverage in just five days.
"This is more detrimental than water hyacinth and hydrilla," Barham said.
Noting the many hunters and fishermen at the chamber meeting, the secretary asked for some help.
"This afternoon go and call your legislator and tell them you want funding for Wildlife and Fisheries. If you think everything is okay, then you don't have to call," he said.
Barham said since Hurricane KatrinaLDWF is responsible for search and rescue in catastropic. events.
He said LDWF was the only state agency that didn't have to go through red tape when the people of the state needed immediate help.
"We went down there and put the boats in the water. There are thousands of people alive today because Wildlife and Fisheries got them out," he said.