Foster chided

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

DEAR GOV. FOSTER: How exactly such a noble act by BP/Amoco to donate 71,000 acres of coastal land for permanent preservation for each and every citizen of Louisiana became a contemptable mess is the subject for political historians to debate. However, finding a way to clean the foul odor from what has transpired so far is still for us to come to grips with today. We realize these are strong words but the stakes are too high for this property and for all future land donations to the state to mince words. “As I have said publicly several times already, the present management structure for the White Lake “is just a very bad precedent for future land donations to the state.”

Your recent announcement to resign from the White Lake Preservation Inc. board of directors in order to placate your detractors totally missed the mark. Please understand your presence alone is not what the Sierra Club, other organizations and the citizens of Louisiana are so upset about. Governor, this is about the entire concept of public land management without representation.

We also find ourselves bewildered by your latest dismissal of the reasonable and modest recommendations made by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation regarding the White Lake Preserve. On behalf of the 4,200 members of the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, I want to assign you the highest of motives and conclude that your actions to date are only misguided. However, deriding the LWF and its 13,000 members as lacking legitimacy instead of offering a reasoned response to the organization’s recommendations suggests somethign far worse, even sinister.

At your legislative briefing several weeks ago, when it was revealed Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jimmy Jenkins announced on a tour of the property that LDWF could not manage the property, we were alarmed. I even told you and all present that this was “just sad.” After six years, why hasn’t your administration been able to organize the LDWF in order to be ready to manage property such as White Lake?

When we found out that the act of donation stated the land went to a non-profit organization only if the state demonstrated a lack of management ability, we became outraged. What exactly had happened became crystal-clear: the state government of Louisiana abdicated its responsibility, your office and LDWF surrendered without firing a shot. With this occurring prior to any public announcement of the final transaction, the citizens of Louisiana and the reputation of our state are the losers in this shady deal.

We do agree with you the best use of this property for Louisiana is only going to be achieved if, long-term, it is managed correctly. Yet, if LDWF is saying it cannot manage these 71,000 acres, how can the federal government feel comfortable handing over $14-plus billion dollars for coastal wetlands preservation? The Sierra Club believes LDWF should be able to manage White Lake but only after the proper rules are set in place. However, it is now very clear to us that these rules need to be made by someone else other than the parties involved so far.

Therefore, in addition to implementation of the proposal offered by LWF, we call for the writing of a management plan by an independent third party. Gov. Foster, at best your current course of action can only blemish your record in office. At worst, it could invite legal action against your friends and your administration in its waning months in office. We just cannot see a good reason for any of this mess.

Maurice Coman, chairman
Delta Chapter, Sierra Club
New Orleans