Jeremy Alford

Despite new litigation, Elmer's Island open for holiday

by Jeremy Alford

Although new legal issues have surfaced over the rights to Elmer’s Island, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission announced Thursday that the area currently overseen by the state will be open to the public during the Labor Day weekend and all day Monday.

On behalf of the Elmer family, Charlie Elmer filed a petition in state court last week hoping a Baton Rouge judge will give back the land claimed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration earlier this year. Jindal contends the state can lay claim to about 250 acres of the Jefferson Parish island, while the Elmer family owns the remaining 1,700 acres.

“We were disappointed to learn that despite ongoing negotiations with the Elmer Family, they have decided to pursue legal action regarding the ownership of the Wildlife Refuge, commonly referred to as Elmer’s Island," says Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "While we did not wish for this outcome, after extensive legal and title research, we are more certain than ever in our position.  This property belongs to the people of Louisiana and our department is committed to maintaining this piece of land for all visitors to continue to enjoy.”

Until the courts get involved, if they do at all, Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge will remain open to the public for day-use only. Those over the age of 16, though, will need either a Wild Louisiana Stamp or a hunting or fishing license to gain access.

In related action, the commission also announced Thursday that Barham will chair the first meeting of the newly-created Shrimp Task Force next Tuesday, Sept. 8, in Baton Rouge. Items up for discussion at the inaugural meeting will include agency updates and the creation of a shrimp task force advisory panel.

The task force includes commercial fishermen; elected officials; the commissioner of agriculture; executive director of the Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board; and a representative from the Louisiana Recovery Authority. “The taskforce is also working with (the Department of Economic Development), who has already committed to contribute seed money for a national branding campaign to promote the quality of Louisiana shrimp, so that consumers know how much better fresh, Louisiana shrimp is than frozen imported alternatives,” says Jindal, who created the new task force by executive order.