Autumn brings with it not only cooler weather and football but the arrival of
hunting season. As a lifelong hunter and the father and son of hunters I gladly
welcome the season. It brings to mind one of my projects as a state senator of
which I am most proud: Youth Hunting Days.
As state senator from District 36 I authored the legislation creating Youth
Hunting Days. My idea was to encourage youngsters to hunt in our state, in order
to continue and expand on Louisiana’s time-honored role as the Sportsmen’s
Paradise. The law allows young Louisiana residents to hunt squirrel, duck, turkey,
deer and other game one week before regular hunting season opens, and that way
have a better chance at success.
Since it began more than 20 years ago Youth Hunting Days has become a
tradition for many Louisiana families. Parents and grandparents take their kids and
grandkids hunting to enjoy the Great Outdoors, and the presence of the adults
encourages safety. Youngsters from single-parent homes often are taken along by
another adult who is a licensed hunter and knows the all-important safety rules.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries uses Youth Hunting Days to
recruit young hunters to the sport. The department’s goal is to help youngsters
develop a lifelong enthusiasm for an outdoor recreation activity and thus provide
lasting support for DWF’s management of fish and game resources.
Hunting and fishing are multi-billion-dollar contributors to Louisiana’s
economy, and much of the support of this industry provided by the state comes in
the form of fees paid by hunters and fishermen.
Another wildlife-related bill that I authored as a senator was the 1995 act
that created one of Louisiana’s first special license plates, the “Save the Louisiana
Black Bear” plate. I was approached by wildlife supporters in New Orleans who
had the idea, borrowed from Florida’s “Save the Manatee” campaign, to raise
money for bear conservation by selling license plates with the Louisiana Black
The Louisiana Black Bear’s historical habitat of forested bottomland in
Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas had for years been largely cleared and
cultivated for agriculture, with notable exceptions in the Tensas and Atchafalaya
river basins. As a result the bear’s population was reduced to a reported 300
animals by the early 1990s.
Louisiana now has scores of special license plates celebrating wildlife,
schools, charitable causes and the like, but in the mid-1990s the concept was still
new. Legislators were generally warm to the idea, with the exception of a few who
voiced concerns about bear damage to crops.
Wildlife and Fisheries now claims the bear’s population has recovered to
approximately 1,000 animals and its status as a federally designated “endangered”
species should be changed to a less strict “threatened” status. There is even talk of
a bear hunt.
The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles reports total sales of Black Bear
plates exceeding 4,500 and nearly half a million dollars raised to promote bear
In 1997 I followed passage of the Black Bear plate with another special
license plate celebrating the Bobwhite Quail. My family has hunted quail for
generations, and the decline of the species and its habitat in Louisiana has forced
us to travel hundreds of miles from Louisiana to find this game bird.
Wildlife and Fisheries reports that almost 500 of the quail plates have been
sold since 200 and $56,000 raised for quail conservation. The money is needed.
According to the department, data from the North American Breeding Bird
Survey show bobwhite quail populations in Louisiana have declined by about 75
percent since 1966, largely due to degradation of the bird’s natural habitat.
On the positive side, much of that habitat loss occurred during the 1970s and
1980s. As a result, in recent years the population numbers have been more stable.
My interest in wildlife and outdoors legislation actually began early in my
Senate career when I passed a bill called “Louisiana Acres for Wildlife.” It
established a program within the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to support
rural landowners who wanted to manage their lands for wildlife habitat. Acres for
Wildlife has been merged into a Private Lands Program that offers no-cost
consulting by DWF biologists who help landowners meet their wildlife-habitat
goals for whatever species they are trying to attract.
Now that I out of the Legislature and serve on the Public Service
Commission, my concerns are primarily about utility rates and service. Issues
focused on the outdoors and conservation rarely come up at the PSC. Yet I
maintain a keen interest in conservation. I do my best to acknowledge that how we
use energy, water and other utilities all have a bearing on the environment.
I try to ensure that our decisions as regulators assist the utilities and their
customers in making wise use of our natural resources.
Foster Campbell is the North Louisiana representative on the Louisiana
Public Service Commission. You can reach him at 318-676-7464 or