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An average American that has some thoughts on politics, culture, and society with a conservative and Catholic twist.

Location: Louisiana, United States
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Friday, September 15, 2006

Louisiana Land Case has got Sportsmen and Fishermen Nationwide in a uproar.

A Louisiana Federal Court out of Monroe has opened up a can of worms the last two weeks. This case is interesting to me partly because my Grandfather actually testifyed for the landowners in this case and involves land I have intimate knowledge of.. In fact one can see his old home(and my mothers old home) in the pic at the link below bordering Gassoway lake.
LINK- (Gassoway Lake is on left and the big body on the right is the Mississippi River-Distance is 3 and half miles)

During the past week Fishermen and hunting organizations have been in a uproar. From the Louisiana Sportsmen we get a headline "Judge rules much of Mississippi River off-limits to anglers". The right of outdoorsmen to fish and hunt on navigable waters was issued a stunning defeat Aug. 29 when a federal judge ruled that the public has no “right to fish and hunt on the Mississippi River.”
U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. James ignored recommendations from his own magistrate in ruling in a case pitting a group of anglers against East Carroll Parish Sheriff Mark Shumate over the legality of trespassing arrests stemming from their fishing on Mississippi River flood waters in Northeast Louisiana.“This is gigantic,” said Mark Hilzim, president of Restore Our Waterway Access, Inc. “He has opened up Pandora’s box. If I read that (ruling) right, does that mean nobody has the right to fish above the low-water mark?....Hilzim said the case is so sweeping that it could prohibit hunting and fishing on navigable waters across the country.“This ruling has the potential to end fishing,” he said. “It can apply to rivers, streams, bayous. Is that what this guy is saying?“This has a potentially profound effect on fishing

Nationwide groups are getting into action. Today Free Republic had this thread, in which I tried to show both sides in this debate without much success, that was referencing this article with an very misleading headline "US Federal judge declares boating illegal in all US navigable waters" We learn that "In a rather bizarre ruling that has marine industry officials worried, Judge Robert G. James of the United States District Court, Western Division of Louisiana, has said that it is criminal trespass for the American boating public to boat, fish, or hunt on the Mississippi River and other navigable waters in the US". and ""Because essentially all the waters and waterways of our country are considered navigable in the US law, this ruling declares recreational boating, water skiing, fishing, waterfowl hunting, and fishing tournaments to be illegal and the public subject to jail sentences for recreating with their families." Well if all due respect this is not exactly what happen.

I urge people to actually read the very Short opinion from Judge James here as well as some very important background on the case in this Louisiana Court of Appeals Case. A Html Link for those that don't have adobe can be found here. To see the other sides point of view go this appeal for amicus briefs by Mr Hurd that in a sense has got the issue such nationwide exposure.

What is happening is this. When Rivers flood that flood waters often go over private lands. Fishermen often fish these waters because they are "navigable". For some background on this issue of "Navigable waters" go here. It is just not flood waters either off the big Mississippi that is part of this debate. Creeks and other tributaries in various bodies of water often become "navigable" also because of yearly high water.

Well as one can see this sets up a grand conflict between the Landowners and everyday common folk that want to hunt and fish. Especially when landowners start constructing dams on bodies of water that prevents people from getting to their favorite fishing spot.

Well this case is a pretty fun one with Sheriffs in the background arresting people and Local DA's refusing to prosecute and all sort of threats all over the place. If you hunt and fish and like to use the public waterways for any reason you might wish to watch this closely.

In the end this individual case is a very close call. I can see the Fishermens point and the Landowners point. However I am a tad alarmed that a Federal judge has sort of declared the is no Federal Right or just as important Common law right to hunt and fish these waters. That does not mean as the articles states above that he has made fishing on the this portion of the Mississippi "illegal". That being said the landowners have some legit gripes here too. It is a facinating and important issue where common law, State and local Rights and Law, Federal Rights and obligations, Landowner Rights, and culture and society are all colliding all over the place. Watch the fireworks as one side portrays people as trespassers and the other side portrays the others a s"greedy and powerful" Louisiana land owners.

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Blogger Pawpaw said...

You asked over at my place if I had any comments on this case.

No, not really. This case is about property rights and open, navigable waters. Because the parties are embroiled in this suit, we are going to see all sorts of wild claims like we are currently seeing.

Years ago, Louisiana was pretty much open to hunting and fishing. There was a lot of private land that was routinely hunted by the general public. That changed over the years because property owners got tired of seeing their property abused by people who thought they had a right to be there. Nowadays, hunting is restricted on private land. Many of us pay a fee to have unrestricted access to hunting land, through the form of leases. Others hunt public land, such as National Forests and WMAs that are set aside for that activity. I might add that much of this land was bought from fees from hunting licences.

The fishermen and boaters are going though the same gyrations that we went through as hunters, twenty years ago. The results will be pretty much the same. Fishing and boating will be allowed on public waters, but will be restricted on private property. Just because a river periodically floods my land doesn't mean I forfeit my property rights to the general public.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to aagree that you shouldn't have to forfiet your property rights do to high water, but land owners don't own the fish that are being caught there. Further more what does this do to your commercial fishermen (i.e. crawfishing) who depend on the water to breach the banks in order to make a lving. And if land owners are going to stick to there guns about it being there land regardless of the water level and force your everyday person to pay to fish in these areas will they also be required to have this property insured?

3:43 PM  

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