Louisiana Dept of Worthless Frauds
The LDWF sneaky rivers scam
Scott Roseno w December 20, 2013
Government attempts power grab under guise of protecting
After receiving complaints about all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) driving through a shallow river, a Louisiana
governmental agency decided to step in. The agency’s solution: restricting a large amount of freedom and
greatly expanding its own power.
The agency is the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), which, among other things, protects
rivers that the state legislature deems “natural and scenic” under the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act . So far, the
Act lists 63 rivers as natural and scenic and hence subject to LDWF’s control. These rivers stretch across much
of the state.
As this article notes, LDWF proposed amending one of its rules to restrict ATV use in one shallow river,
although the rule change would apply to all 63 natural and scenic rivers. That article f ailed to mention that the
rule change would also restrict much more than ATV use. According to the proposed rule change, a permit
would be required in order to use “a motor vehicle or other wheeled or tracked vehicle” on a natural and scenic
river. That means a permit would be required to ride a bicycle through, or drive a small motorboat on, such a
river. Apparently, not even LDWF intended this absurd result, given that it defended this proposed rule change
by arguing that ATVs can damage aquatic life on the bottoms of rivers. The agency said nothing about trying
to restrict bicycle use or boating, although that’s what the rule change would do.
LDWF also wants to expand its powers under the guise of protecting rivers. Under one of LDWF’s rules, its
scenic-rivers regulations apply to activities that occur within 100 feet of — but not beyond — a natural and
scenic river. LDWF wants to eliminate that 100-foot limit on its scenic-rivers jurisdiction. In an effort to calm
Louisianans’ concerns with this attempted power grab, LDWF argued that it always had the power to regulate
activities more than 100 feet f rom a river. According to LDWF, just because one of its rules says that it can
regulate activities within 100 feet of a river, that doesn’t mean the agency can’t regulate activities further away
f rom a river.
Pacific Legal Foundation disagrees, and that’s why we submitted a letter to LDWF, urging it not to adopt these
two rule changes. The first rule change, as noted, would restrict a lot of vehicle use. That is troubling
because the Scenic Rivers Act protects recreational use of rivers, including water-craft usage. The Act also
says that the “normal activities” of landowners are immune f rom LDWF regulations. The broad scope of this
proposed rule change unnecessarily curtails a lot of freedom and property rights.
We also object to LDWF’s attempted power grab. Keeping the agency’s jurisdiction within 100 feet of a river
is a sensible policy because it provides clear guidance to landowners and businesses. Without this 100-foot
limit, LDWF would be free to meddle in all sorts of activities. For example, LDWF could prevent home
construction that local zoning authorities have approved, on the ground that LDWF thinks the construction
might harm a river a mile away. The legislature certainly didn’t intend f or the agency to have this much power.
Contrary to LDWF’s assertion, the Scenic Rivers Act does impose a 100-foot limit on the agency’s power. All
of these concerns aside, this attempt to expand the agency’s power far beyond rivers has absolutely nothing
to do with restricting ATV use inside of a shallow river, which is what prompted the agency to propose these
rule changes in the first place.
This is another thinly veiled attempt by the government to expand its own power in the name of saving the
environment. Because these proposed rule changes are wholly out of proportion to their alleged need, we are
hopeful that the agency will reconsider them in light of our concerns.
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