Avoyelles School Board committee endorses ‘range rider’ proposal
Although there seemed to be more united support for contracting with a “range rider” to enforce a hunting permit ordinance for Section 16 property, it is no longer clear who that enforcement officer will be.
The Avoyelles School Board’s Building and Lands Committee revisited the issue of a range rider at its Aug. 21 meeting. The board defeated the measure on a 4-4 vote, with one abstention, on Aug. 7.
Committee Chairman Mike Lacombe began the discussion by noting that Jay Callegari, who presented the plan for a range rider last month, is no longer interested in the position.
District Attorney Charles Riddle said that may not be the case, adding that he has recently spoken with Callegari.
The committee sent a recommendation to the full board that it advertise for applicants to serve as a range rider, as outlined in Callegari’s proposal.
It was emphasized that the permit enforcement officer would be a private service contractor and not a School District employee.
Callegari is a former state Wildlife & Fisheries agent and is POST-certified as a law enforcement officer. Riddle said anyone serving as a permit enforcement officer should be POST-certified to carry a firearm.
Lacombe pointed out that Callegari was also going to provide his own equipment, vehicle, boat, etc., to be used while patrolling the board’s property.
Riddle spoke in favor of the range rider program, saying it would cost about $12,000 for a four-month period of hunting season. It would likely result in the School Board earning $30,000 from the sale of permits to hunt on the board’s 16th Section tracts around the parish.
Hunting on board property without a permit carries a fine of $300 for a first offense -- if the offender is ever charged and prosecuted. The fine increases for repeat violations.
A permit costs $200.
The problem is that Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) will not issue a citation as a primary offense. If an agent charges a hunter with another game violation, the no permit charge can be added to the list.
Riddle said LDWF agents have agreed to ask hunters they come across on 16th Section lands if they have a board-issued permit to hunt on the property. If they do not, the agent will not issue a ticket but will conduct a field interview and provide that statement to the district attorney’s office.
Riddle said he will use that statement as the basis for prosecuting the person for hunting on board property without a permit.
Contracting with someone to patrol the board properties during peak hunting hours is a sound economic move, Riddle said. He said he wouldn’t recommend it if the program cost the board more than it is likely to save.
It was noted the board sold only 39 permits this past year after it was widely known that neither the LDWF or Avoyelles Sheriff’s Department would be enforcing the ordinance. The year before, the board sold 200 permits.
In a letter concerning his decision, Callegari said his proposal was “basically a break even job for me. The cost involved with fuel, equipment and time are high.”
He said that as a retired game warden, he knows that “if a law or rule is not enforced, then it will not be followed.”
Since the board rejected the proposal, Callegari said he “can see future problems with this endeavor that will diminish my capacity to be properly successful and safe.
In a note on the email in which the letter was attached, Callegari wrote, “I assumed that if they could not agree on a simple plan, such as the one outlined in my proposal, that trouble with the job would soon follow.”
In his letter, Callegari said that in his opinion “the best course of action the School Board could take is to find a way to lease out these lands to the highest bidder and allow camp owners to maintain their camp leases if they desire. This would reduce liability on the School Board, make a steady income and would allow the land to be used for recreation by paying sportsmen.
“I think the only people that would argue this point are the ‘freeloader’ hunters and the politicians that allow this land to be used without proper compensation to the people of Avoyelles Parish.”