This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in The Daily Iberian on June 20, 2021.
Whether you prefer to hunt around the Wax Lake, in the marshes of Pecan Island, or in the rice fields of Thornwell, Louisiana has a lot to offer the sportsman. As a duck hunter myself, I know our state has also done the yeoman’s work of conserving our coastal ecosystems.
In fact, no one has done more to grow America’s duck population than duck hunters. So why are we ignoring their input when it comes to cutting the hunting season short?
In the early 20th century, America and Louisiana were growing while the number of waterfowl in our country dropped to approximately 27 million—or about 10 million less than what it is today.
It was sportsmen and sportswomen who, in the throes of industrialization, recognized the importance of protecting the nation’s wildlife. They were instrumental in saving duck habitat—America’s wetlands.
It was a duck hunter who pioneered the Duck Stamp, considered “among the most successful conservation tools ever created.” Stamp sales have generated more than $950 million for initiatives to protect our wetlands.
Many Louisianians agree that these kinds of initiatives are sorely needed. The U.S. lost more than one million acres of wetlands between 1985 and 1995, and many more are still at risk.
Over the decades, outdoor nonprofit groups have increased the duck population by compensating farmers to protect wetlands on their property. They’ve also worked tirelessly to establish new wildlife habitats, including a $1.9 million, 3,600-acre expansion in Louisiana.
The elbow grease and innovation worked: North America’s duck population grew by nearly 40 percent from its low point in the 1930s.
Louisiana hunters have been part of this solution because sportsmen are natural conservationists. Hunters depend on the environment, so they have every incentive to steward the great outdoors faithfully.
Unfortunately, the government has imposed unfair limits on when hunters can use America’s wetlands. Many Louisiana hunters believe the duck season is unreasonably and unnaturally short. They want more time in the blind.
The problem isn’t new. Under 1916’s Migratory Bird Treaty, duck hunting season starts Sept. 1 and runs through March 10, but current federal regulations usually cut the season off on Jan. 31—more than a month earlier than it has to end.
This limitation hits Louisiana’s hunters particularly hard, since poor duck hunting seasons have plagued our state in recent years. A lot of Louisianians would like to hunt until March 10 because the early spring may bring better hunting conditions.
In my experience, hunters have valuable on-the-ground insight to offer, so officials should respect their input.
That’s why Congress should amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow duck hunting to continue until March 10. This amendment wouldn’t automatically extend the season into March, but it would permit state and federal wildlife management authorities to make that change, if the facts support it. And, significantly, amending the Migratory Bird Treaty Act would give duck hunters a chance to make their case for extending their access to Louisiana’s marshes and rice fields.
“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” President Theodore Roosevelt’s words still ring true—Louisiana hunters’ success in guarding and growing the duck population has proven that abundantly.
Washington has restricted America’s access to wetlands for more than a century. Louisiana hunters care about the great outdoors, and it’s time to listen more carefully to their experience. That’s what amending the Migratory Bird Treaty Act would do.