House Bill 919 would have dedicated annually one-twentieth of 1 percent of sales taxes to the Louisiana Conservation Fund.

That would have generated $45 million a year or so to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, an agency in the state wheel thatís very underfunded.

Gov. Blanco Ė who claimed to be a sportsman in this sportsmanís paradise when campaigning Ė threatened to veto the bill if passed. So under pressure, the bill was amended to provide for mineral revenues from the Attakapas Wildlife Management Area, at perhaps $18 million a year.

While the governor has demonstrated a willingness to work with sportsmen in the past Ė one prominent example is opposition to liquefied natural gas platforms off our coasts Ė itís mind-boggling that she threatened veto of HB 919.

For too long, Louisiana has treated fishing and hunting as a self-perpetuating thing that needs enforcement and a spattering of support. Our state hatchery is only running at I think 10 percent potential.

According to sources, the total economic impact of hunting, recreational fishing, non-consumptive fish and wildlife recreation, recreational boating, commercial fishing, alligator, reptile and amphibian collection and fur harvest was $7.1 billion in 2003.

LDW&F only has a budget of $70 million or so.

Louisiana has become known as a destination for anglers and, to some degree, waterfowl hunters as well. Yet a drop in the bucket supplement to the LDW&F is soundly defeated in a time of pork barrel projects and abundance.

We in Louisiana just canít seem to stop cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

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In all the brouhaha Iíve stirred regarding parish marketing of itself, I have sorely neglected the commendable efforts of the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Someone sent me Ė and I donít know who, it just showed up on my desk, but thanks, whoever you were Ė the new Cajun Coast Paddling Trails brochures, and wow! Thereís maps and info for 12 paddling trails in St. Mary Parish, nicely laid out and colorful, with tidbits on historic and interesting places visitors can see and visit along the way.

Outstanding job, well done.

The Cajun Coast people also are involved in lots of other things to enhance the image and bring people to St. Mary Parish: Bass tournaments, athletics guidebooks, eagle expos, assisting with festivals and cities, and lots, lots more.

You folks at the Cajun Coast have my admiration and my thanks.

One of the things Iím a die-hard proponent of is eco-tourism in St. Mary Parish, a jewel in the rough for such ventures. Paddlers, Iíve noted before, have fallen in love with St. Mary Parish, but wish weíd provide more amenities suitable to their hobby. They buy gas, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, visit gift shops and much more. Often they bring non-paddling spouses who would shop and visit in the area. A comprehensive paddlerís facility would be inexpensive, and one on each end of the parish would be greatly appreciated by the paddlers Iíve spoken with.

Heck, I might even buy a canoe myself and challenge certain public officials to a "paddle-off."

Or maybe not.

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I picked up a book at Glenn Collinsí bookstore, Cover to Cover, in Morgan City last weekend called 50 Hikes In Louisiana.

I got it because, well, you know this, as a fisherman I realize many of these hikes pass by water, and I figured my midsection could probably use a few miles on the trail as well. Most of the hikes Iím interested in are around north and central Louisiana, where they cross many small streams, some of which might hold a fish or two. Some are on ridges and bluffs in Kisatchie National Forest that rise a striking 400 feet, which is tall for Louisiana. Mt. Driskill, the highest point in the state, reaches about 500 feet. I am hesitant to attempt such heights because I fear that if I fall and start rolling downhill Iíll start a landslide or something. Itíd be like in the Bambi cartoons, wildlife fleeing everywhere from the tumbling-rumble.

Anyway, the nearest trail listed was at Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, which is actually in Iberia Parish. So Iím thinking, I know we have some Bear Refuge trails, and with all the levee systems and occasional hardwood high-ground ridges around here, maybe some hiking trails would be a good idea. If Iíve missed some existing trails, let me know! Iíd be glad to publicize them here.

But creating such a trail might really attract more eco-tourism. To me, eco-tourism is hiking, paddling, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, boating, anything that involves cashing-in Ė and thereby by default affording protection to Ė the fabulous natural wonders we have here in St. Mary Parish. Trails are low cost to create, and low maintenance once done, and the Cajun Coast does such a find job of promotion, I figure itíd be a natural, pardon the pun.