The following is an article written by Don Shoopman, and published by The Daily Iberian on May 24,2023.
State Rep. Beau Beaullieu harks back to his days as a boy enjoying Marsh Island — boating, fishing, crabbing, cast netting for shrimp — to help explain why he introduced a bill near and dear to his heart before the 2023 Louisiana Legislative Session.
The Republican lawmaker from New Iberia, a lifelong outdoorsman, wanted to right a wrong in requiring self-clearing permits at Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. After hearing from constituents last year, Beaullieu took issue with check-in, check-out language in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulations for wildlife refuges and Wildlife Management Areas. He believed it wasn’t practical to comply.
For example, he said, cell phone service is spotty, often non-existent, across most of Marsh Island. And it doesn’t make sense for boaters without cell phone service to have to pick up and travel five or more miles away to check in at a station on the area.
Louisiana’s lawmakers agreed. House Concurrent Resolution 3 passed unanimously on May 18. Beaullieu was as pleased as he was proud.
“This is the Sportsman’s Paradise. We need to let people enjoy it freely,” he said the following day.
The regulation before HCR3’s passage read: “A self-clearing permit is required for all activities on department-administered lands including wildlife refuges.”
Beaullieu’s bill amends the rule to exempt users from having to secure a self-clearing permit each time out to either the Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.
HCR3 was provisionally referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment on March 31. It was adopted 100-0 on April 25 by the House and sent to the Senate. It sailed through the Senate Natural Resources Committee, then got a thumbs up from the Senate, 35-0, on May 18.
Beaullieu emphasized the LDWF never objected to HCR3. In fact, he said, the state agency agreed with it.
The Catholic High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree from LSU and a master’s degree from ULL said he got his initial phone call about the issue last summer from a concerned local outdoorsman. He wound up getting approximately 30 more phone calls.
“After the first phone call I got, I didn’t need a second phone call,” he said, noting he immediately contacted the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and asked the state agency to amend the self-clearing permit rule for Marsh Island and Rockefeller.
To date since the state regulation was enacted, there have been no reports of tickets handed out for failure to get a self-clearing permit, he said, just warnings. The warnings would have ended eventually.
LDWF initially told him the rules applied to those who stepped onto land, such as the dams they use to catch crabs and shrimp, as well as a means to collect data on shrimping and crabbing harvests from the dams. However, Beaullieu read the regulations closely and determined it was clear they targeted anyone entering the island’s bayous, canals and lakes.
And all the while he recalled how much fun he had when he was little going on Marsh Island with his father, Buster Beaullieu.
“I remember going out to the dams with my dad … getting stuck in the shallow ponds. We had an old deep V Cobia we’d take back there in some ponds. If you didn’t get that boat moving you weren’t going anywhere,” he said with a chuckle.
And his four children enjoyed the island immensely as they grew up, he said. He wants them and others for generations to come to be able to experience that without a big hassle.
“We want everyone to have memories like that,” he said.
The first constituents he contacted after the HCR3 passage were two local men who followed it zealously from the start, Pat Caffery and Dr. Johnny Beyt.
Beaullieu, who represents District 48, mostly rural areas and sugar cane fields as well as marshes and bayous along the Gulf Coast, was cheered and supported every step of the way by Crab Grabber, a Facebook page maintained by O.J. Lounsberry near Spanish Lake. Crab Grabber’s post at 7:10 a.m. May 19 read: “Great news for everyone who utilizes Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge. The ‘Crab Grabber Family’ has just been notified that the regulation of “signing in/signing out” at these two refuges has been rescinded as advised by Louisiana State Rep. Beaullieu yesterday.”
Cajun Country shares the sentiment. Thanks, Beau Beaullieu.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.