• 75°

Fish and wildlife propose public use permit for Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a new public use permit fee and a lottery alligator tag program at some of the refuges it manages, including Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge.

The proposals are in the beginning of a six to eight month approval process, said Neil Lalonde, project leader for the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges.

The refuges that would require a public use permit would be Bogue Chitto, Bayou Sauvage, Bayou Teche, Big Branch Marsh, Breton, Cat Island, Delta and Mandalay.

The fee based permits would not be required until Sept. 1, 2020. The proposed public use permit would be $5 for a day, $20 annually or $5 annually for people 60 years and older. Juveniles 17-years-old or younger would be free. All of the fees would go directly to the refuges to support recreational activities. The fees would fund projects such as maintaining boat launches and wildlife habitats.

The permit would be necessary for refuge activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, crabbing, hiking and wildlife photography. The permit would not be necessary for approved academic activities, some public programs and some special events like the Bogue Chitto youth fishing rodeo.

Hunters or anglers who purchase the permit would still need a hunting or fishing license.

In lieu of the public use permit, people could purchase an America the Beautiful pass or other federal recreational passes.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 1997 allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect fees for public use recreation and similar fees for use of federal lands are common across the country, Lalonde said. Except for the Bogue Chitto, all wildlife refuges in Mississippi that offer hunting already have a fee based system, Lalonde said.

“We wouldn’t propose this if there wasn’t a dire need for it,” said Lalonde.

The budget for the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges has decreased over the last decade, even as the number of refuges it manages has increased, Lalonde said. Since the 1990s, the staff has decreased from 30 people to approximately 20 and the number of refuges has increased from five to nine, Lalonde said.

Staff are also looking for more vendors to sell public use permits, Lalonde said.

A lottery alligator tag program is also being proposed. Currently, the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge is the only Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge that allows alligator hunting, Lalonde said. The lottery proposal would include the Bogue Chitto, Atchafalaya, Bayou Sauvage, Bayou Teche, Big Branch Marsh and Delta refuges.

Hunters could pay a small fee to enter the alligator lottery and if chosen, they would pay $40 for three tags to harvest three alligators.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a meeting to collect public comments and questions on the proposals Tuesday at the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library. More meetings will be held Dec. 12 at the Plaquemines Parish Library, Dec. 13 at the West Feliciana Parish Library, Dec. 17 at SELA Headquarters Conservation Room and Dec. 18 at the East New Orleans Regional Library.

The service will collect public comments by mail until Jan. 9, 2020. Comments can be mailed to Project Leader, 61389 Highway 434, Lacombe, LA 70445.

The public comments will go to the regional office and be used to help shape the proposals before they are sent to Washington D.C. for approval.