SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — The Caddo Levee District voted last week to continue its contract with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to manage the Soda Lake Wildlife Management Area on a month-to-month basis.
That temporary contract will remain in place until a new contract can be finalized that will allow the Levee District and LDWF biologists to work cooperatively to improve the often ignored 2,500-acre WMA located 15 miles north of Shreveport.
"We wanted to keep it so that the public has access to it in order to view wildlife and ducks, but we feel like a joint contract to manage it would work better," board member Don Logan Jr. said. "I'd like it to be for three years to see how it works."
Approximately one-half of the 2,500-acre Soda Lake WMA is owned by the Caddo Levee District (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the other half), which has had a contract with the LDWF to manage the small lake and surrounding habitat for birding and some limited bow hunting since the 1960s.
Unhappy with the current state of the WMA, the CLD's board tabled a motion last month not to renew a 20-year lease with the LDWF. There were fears the area would lose its WMA status and that the public might lose access to it. That turned out not to be the case.
Three LDWF employees were on hand for the meeting, including biologist Jeff Johnson, who told the board that his organization was willing to do what was necessary to improve the Soda Lake area.
"You guys have some money and the equipment and we have the expertise," Johnson said. "There are some people who love hunting up there, although there aren't a lot of them. One man I know calls it his $15-a-year deer lease."
Efforts will be made to shore up the levee, which should allow the lake to hold more water, which would in turn hold more ducks in the fall and winter.
"Soda Lake is about three miles from my home and I would like nothing better than to see thousands of ducks there," Levee board president James Adger said.
Only deer hunting with a bow and falconry are allowed on the WMA and the LDWF requires a $15 permit to hunt on any WMA in Louisiana.
Under questioning by board member Creighton Light, Johnson said approximately 600 people visit the site annually, according to self-clearing permits that outdoor enthusiasts are required to fill out to enter a WMA. Fewer than 10 deer are annually harvested.
"It seems that area serves a purpose for bow hunters who have nowhere else to hunt," Light said.
The LDWF lease with the Levee District requires no funding from the state and the area is one of the few WMA's north of Shreveport. The current lease with the LDWF would have expired today.
Soda Lake is located in an area that historically was a seasonal lake that flooded during late winter and spring.
Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com