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California Makes History in Banning Lead Hunting Ammunition
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Gov. Jerry Brown today signed historic legislation that will protect the state’s condors, eagles and other wildlife from lead poisoning by requiring the use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting by 2019. By signing Assembly Bill 711 California becomes the first state in the country to require the use of nontoxic bullets and shot for all hunting.
“California has taken a historic step to protect its wildlife from lead poisoning,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Switching to nontoxic lead ammunition will save the lives of eagles, condors and thousands of other birds every year – and, importantly, will keep hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead. It’s great to see California lead the nation in getting lead out of the wild.”
The bill requires the state Fish and Game Commission to issue regulations by July 1, 2015, that phase in use of nonlead ammunition for hunting of all kinds, including game mammals, game birds, nongame birds and nongame mammals. These requirements must be fully implemented statewide no later than July 1, 2019.
Nationwide, millions of nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned each year from scavenging carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments, eating lead-poisoned prey, or ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, mistaking them for food or grit. Spent lead ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure.
Scientists, doctors and public-health experts from top universities around the country recently called for a phaseout of lead hunting ammunition, citing overwhelming scientific evidence of toxic dangers posed to people and wildlife.
California began phasing out lead hunting ammunition in 2008 to protect critically endangered California condors due to continued lead poisoning in the state’s three reintroduced condor flocks. The Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act and state regulations required hunters to use nonlead ammunition for all hunting within the central and Southern California condor range. Those regulations demonstrate that hunters statewide can easily transition to hunting with nontoxic bullets. In fact, there has been no decrease in game tags or hunting in central and Southern California in the five years since those regulations went into effect. Neighboring Arizona has refused to require nontoxic ammunition for hunting, despite an epidemic of lead poisonings and deaths of the Grand Canyon population of endangered condors.
A coalition of 268 organizations from 40 states has petitioned the EPA for nationwide regulations ending the use of toxic lead hunting ammunition. Conservation groups filed suit in 2012 when the EPA refused to act. A federal judge dismissed the case in May on technical grounds but did not rule on the substance of the claim: whether the EPA should regulate lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Conservation groups are considering appealing the ruling.
A national poll released earlier this year found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting.
Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels. Lead exposure can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth, and damage to neurological development.
Studies using radiographs show that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.
There are numerous commercially available, nontoxic alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 and there are more than a dozen approved nonlead shot types. More than three dozen manufacturers market nonlead bullets in 35 calibers and 51 rifle cartridge designations, with superior ballistics, accuracy and safety.
A recent study deflates any argument that price and availability of nonlead ammunition preclude switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting; researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Historic Legislation Requiring the Use of Non-Lead Hunting Ammunition
Law championed by Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the United States will help eradicate major source of lead in the environment
Published: Oct 11, 2013
Sacramento, CA - Today Gov. Jerry Brown signed historic legislation into law that will require hunters to use non-lead ammunition, to be phased in by 2019. The bill, authored by Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, will eliminate what nationally-renowned scientists say is the number one source of unregulated lead left in our environment.
“We are thrilled that Governor Brown has made AB711 the law of the land,” said Rendon. “There is simply no reason to continue using lead ammunition in hunting when it poses a significant risk to human health and the environment.”
Eliminating lead ammunition has been a priority for national agencies, and California is now the country’s leader in eradicating an unnecessary source of this lethal toxin.
“Lead ammunition leaves toxins in the environment that are hazardous to human health,” said Dr. Pan, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. “I want to thank Governor Brown for making this public health concern a priority, and taking an important step toward eradicating a dangerous neurotoxin from our environment.”
In addition to posing a danger to human health, lead ammunition still threatens the California Condor, Golden Eagle and other protected species. One in five wild condors has ingested such significant levels of lead from these sources that they are at risk of dying from lead poisoning. In addition, more than 130 other wildlife species are at risk of poisoning by spent lead ammunition left behind by hunters.
“Governor Brown has made history today in taking a critical step toward protecting endangered species like the California Condor and Golden Eagle,” said Dan Taylor, Audubon California’s director of public policy. “This groundbreaking law implements common-sense changes to help eliminate a toxin in our environment that is detrimental to all of us.”
“California has led the nation in creating humane laws, and today’s action by Governor Brown to eliminate lead from hunting ammunition is an incredible victory for wildlife and humans alike,” said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “This common-sense law should serve as an example for the rest of the nation on the urgent need to stop releasing this dangerous toxin into the environment.”
“Lead doesn’t belong in ammunition for hunting, just as it didn’t belong in gas, pipes or pencils. We hope that the federal government and the rest of the country pays attention to the leadership provided by Governor Brown’s approval of this important wildlife and public health law,” said Kimberley Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife California program director.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991 began to require the use of non-lead shot like steel and copper for hunting ducks and geese across the United States and the National Park Service in 2009 announced the goal of eliminating the use of lead ammunition.
There are already manufacturers of safer, affordable alternatives non-lead in the state of California, and thousands and thousands of hunters in California already use non-lead ammunition for hunting big game in condor country and waterfowl hunting statewide.
The AB 711 coalition included more than 80 animal protection, public health and environmental organizations, local governments and more than 100 California veterinarians, and dozens of leading scientists. Newspaper editorial boards from across the state also voiced support for this important legislation.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. With more than 150,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of Audubon. More information is available at http://www.ca.audubon.org.