Caddo Lake could become a National Heritage Area in both Louisiana and Texas, but some of the people who live in the designated area are concerned about changes it may bring.
Currently making its way through the U.S. Senate is a bill, S. 2947, authored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), that establishes a 900-square-mile area in northwest Louisiana and east Texas as the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area.
U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Mike Johnson (R-LA) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) are handling the same legislation on the House side.
The Senate bill is now under consideration in the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Although the bill is dated May 24, 201, some land owners in Texas and Louisiana say this is the first they’ve heard about the possible changes and they’re concerned about losing rights to their property.
“We love Caddo Lake and the surrounding area, this is our home and we want it to thrive, this community is active.” said Jenni Smith, a resident from Vivian-Oil City.
According to backers of the legislation, the area proposed for the designation would preserve and promote 200 historic sites and six land and water-based trails in Texas and Louisiana.
The designation also would provide money from the federal government to help with upgrades to facilities and put new amenities out.
However, property owners in the proposed area don’t believe it’s a good idea.
Frank Hicks a Marion County resident called it a “land grab.”
“It’s what they are considering a legal land grab,” he said. “And somebody needs to know about this, there needs to be a public vote on this by the people it effects.”
Smith says she is not against federal programs or facilities that help with education or encourage preservation, “but what I don’t agree with is that my personal property has to become a part of a federal program under the guise that this is the only way this community can thrive.”
Property owners hope lawmakers will consider their rights.
“I’m not a millionaire,” Hicks said. “I don’t have the money to fight them, my little 200 acres will just get wiped from underneath me, and I was born and raised on this land.”
Smith added she believes the bill leaves the door wide open for future restrictions and also the influence from special interest groups. “But when it comes to our homes, and our businesses, we just cannot risk that,” she said.
Although Cassidy was unavailable for an interview today, a spokesman in his office assured NBC6/FOX33 they are listening to Caddo Lake residents and working with them. He said they want “to ensure this proposed area can be just as successful as Louisiana’s two other National Heritage Areas, Atchafalaya Basin and Cane River.”
Cassidy’s office said both areas have increased economic opportunities and highlight the uniqueness of the regions, “without infringing or making a single change to residents’ individual rights or their ability to fish, hunt, or otherwise enjoy the areas.”