Petition to Remove Lead from Hunting Ammunition and Fishing Tackle |
Comparison between lead bullets and copper bullets. The lead bullets (far left and right) fragment on impact, leaving less of the original mass in tact. The copper bullets mushroom, limiting the risk of poisoning to wildlife. Photo NPS.
A petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to eliminate lead from all hunting ammunition and fishing gear, submitted by a coalition of groups including ABC and the Center for Biological Diversity, was denied following a politically charged chain of events in the run-up to the November elections.
We know that lead is extremely toxic to all living things; alternatives to lead shot, bullets, and fishing gear are readily available; and we have already eliminated lead from gasoline, paint, solder for pipes, and even wheel weights. In addition, we have eliminated lead shot from all waterfowl hunting and from bullets used within the range of the California Condor.
So it comes as a disappointment that EPA folded so quickly under pressure from opposition groups, who deliberately mischaracterized this petition as an attempt to ban hunting or infringe on gun rights. The goal of the petition was only to prevent needless poisonings of Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, California Condors, Ravens, Mourning Doves, and other animals from lead ingestion.
The denial of the petition came only hours after EPA Assistant Administrator, Steve Owens, was contacted by a handful lawmakers. This, in turn, came swiftly after a negative piece about the petition appeared on Fox News.
In his brief letter to the petitioners, Owens failed to address any of the merits of the petition or to recognize the 500 or so scientific papers submitted in its support. Instead, in a move seemingly designed to dodge political heat, Owens chose to deny the regulatory authority that is clearly given to EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act, as evidenced by the following statement made by the House committee that drafted the law: “…the Committee wishes to emphasize that it does not intend that the legislation be used as a vehicle for gun control.
Consequently, the Administration has no authority to regulate ammunition as an unreasonable risk because it injures people when fired from a gun. However, the Committee does not exclude from regulation under the bill the chemical components of ammunition which could be hazardous because of their chemical properties.”
“In this case, EPA has shown that it is more concerned with political expediency than fact,” said ABC President, George Fenwick. “This is precisely what the agency was created to avoid. We cannot afford to sacrifice science to political whim so carelessly if we are to safeguard our environment for the future.”
Bald Eagles and other scavengers consume lead when they feed on carcasses or animal remains left behind in the field. A single lead shot pellet can poison an adult eagle, dooming it to a slow and painful death. The preventable death of our national symbol is something no American should tolerate.
Thankfully, the solution is simple. Yes, it requires change, and sportsmen and women may have to pay a little more for their ammunition and tackle, just as we all did for our cars when we mandated catalytic converters and lead-free gasoline. But the price to pay to get lead out of our environment is small when compared to the true cost of doing nothing.
Hunters have been at the forefront of conservation in this country, funding wildlife refuges and state natural resources agencies through the purchase of licenses and duck stamps, and through taxes levied on ammunition. The continued use of lead bullets, shot, and fishing tackle is antithetical to those conservation achievements and the pride most hunters take in them. We think you ought to be able to hunt and fish as much as the law allows, and not leave poisons behind after you do it.
If you are a hunter, you can help us correct misinformation about the petition among your hunting friends and on shooting and sporting blogs and forums.
View the full petition here