Louisiana governor replaces state’s fisheries chief
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has named a new head of the state’s department of wildlife and fisheries, just days after the previous chief suddenly resigned.
State Rep. Jack Montoucet was appointed by Bel Edwards to the post on Friday, 30 December and will begin his job on Monday, 16 January. He replaces Charlie Melancon, who said he was forced out of the office in December due to opposition to reforms he tried to make to the department’s financial practices, according to The Advocate newspaper.
Montoucet is a former alligator farmer and has served as a state representative since 2008. Bel Edwards, Melancon and Montoucet are all Democrats. Bel Edwards had initially asked Melancon to step down by February 2017, but Melancon made the surprise announcement of his early departure on 21 December.
Melancon told the Associated Press he faced opposition from the state’s recreational fishermen’s advocacy group, and from within his own department. A November audit reported missing property and millions of dollars of misspent money, including Gulf oil spill recovery money intended for fish testing that was instead used for iPads, cameras, boats and now-missing fishing equipment.
In a prepared statement, Montoucet said he would seek to to be “a uniter” of all groups with stakes in the future of Louisiana’s fisheries.
"I'm honored to be chosen by our governor to lead an agency that protects Louisiana's legacy and unique culture," said Montoucet. "I will be a uniter, not a divider, on important decisions about access to wildlife and fisheries that impact our environment and our way of life. I understand the seriousness of the issues raised by a recent audit, and the governor and I are committed to making the necessary reforms to this agency. Businesses, recreational sportsman and every interested party will have a seat at the table and they will be treated fairly, and I am looking forward to serving the Sportsman’s Paradise.”