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Wildlife Groups and Sportsmen Petition Feds to End Lead Ammunition on Public Lands
Animal protection and wildlife conservation groups, along with individual hunters and sportsmen, have petitioned the Department of the Interior to require the use of non-lead ammunition when discharging a firearm on the more than 160 million acres of federal lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals die from lead poisoning, either by ingesting lead shot or fragments directly or by feeding on lead-contaminated prey.
Lead ammunition has been prohibited nationwide in waterfowl hunting since 1991, and hunters adapted to non-lead ammunition for the hunting of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. More than 20 years later, the groups argue it’s time to expand this sensible environmental policy to the hunting of big game, upland game birds and other species on lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Federal law already prohibits the use of lead in paints, children’s toys, gasoline and a myriad of other consumer products, yet lead continues to be widely used in hunting ammunition. Each year, hunters deposit thousands of tons of lead ammunition into the environment. This occurs despite the fact that more than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of non-lead bullets and shot, such as copper, steel and bismuth, for hunting and shooting.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said: “Lead ammunition continues to kill long after it leaves the gun barrel. Lead-free alternatives are available, affordable and sensible. As the nation’s principal habitat conservation steward, the Department of the Interior has a duty to stop what amounts to a public-lands poisoning program that claims countless animal victims up and down the food chain.”
Andrew Wetzler, director of land and wildlife for the Natural Resources Defense Council said: “We don't put lead in paint anymore. We don't put it in gasoline. Or even pencils. Why should we still allow it to poison the wildlife and wild places that Americans are so desperate to see? By allowing continued use of lead shot on public lands, that is essentially what is happening. Just like in the products we use daily, there are newer and better options for sportsman to protect their health and the animals living on those landscapes they value."
The toxicity of lead to both human and environmental health is well-documented. More than 500 scientific papers have cited the many dangers to wildlife caused by lead exposure. A single ingested shotgun pellet is sufficient to cause brain damage and organ failure in an animal, resulting in inhibition of critical neuromuscular, auditory and visual responses. Lead poisoning can induce lethargy, blindness, paralysis of lungs and intestinal tract, seizure and death. More than 130 species, including threatened and endangered wildlife as well as iconic species like bald and golden eagles, have been poisoned or killed by lead ammunition. The toxicity of lead ammunition also poses health risks to people who eat animals shot with lead ammunition.
Kai Williams, executive director of The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council said: “Wildlife rehabilitators are the first responders of the lead toxicity epidemic. One Wisconsin wildlife rehabilitation center reports up to 33 percent of bald eagles patients present with significant lead toxicity. Unfortunately even more succumb to acute lead poisoning without ever reaching a wildlife hospital.”
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife said: “The use of lead ammunition is unacceptable in this day and age, when there are readily available alternatives on the market and we know the incredible harm that lead poses to people and to wildlife. The Department of the Interior must keep federal lands safe. Given the stewardship responsibilities of the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is long overdue for those agencies to ban the use of lead ammunition on our national wildlife refuge lands and some national park preserves, where it can easily poison non-target species and imperiled wildlife.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instituted a nationwide ban on the use of lead shot when hunting migratory waterfowl in 1991 but the use of lead shot is still permissible for other hunted species. California Governor Jerry Brown signed state legislation to phase out the use of lead ammunition for the taking of wildlife in 2013. Today’s petition would expand upon these protections by requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for the taking of all species in areas managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – some of our nation’s most treasured lands, and those which millions of species of wildlife call home.
Judd Hanna, sportsman and former California Fish and Game commissioner said: “As a lifelong hunter, I have always enjoyed being in the great outdoors and showing respect for the land and the wildlife. This is why I have easily made the transition from lead to non-lead ammunition. Those of us interested in preserving the hunting tradition must take the lead in managing the effects of our activities in the field and get the lead out of ammunition once and for all.”
The groups filing the petition include The Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Conservation Society, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, the South Florida Wildlife Center, the Chocolay Raptor Center, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Northwood Alliance, National Wolfwatcher Coalition and five individual sportsmen.