Washington, D.C. – Several organizations, calling themselves “a
coalition of conservation, hunting, and veterinary groups” recently
filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
calling for a ban on the use of toxic lead in fishing tackle and
A press release from the Washington-based American Bird
Conservancy says recent efforts to reduce lead usage have improved
wildlife health, “but toxic lead is still a widespread killer in
the wild, harming bald eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered
California condors, and other wildlife.”
Some umbrella outdoors organizations, however, say such a ban
would actually hurt wildlife, by reducing fishing and hunting
“Such a ban would drastically reduce sportsmen numbers and
result in decimated funding for wildlife-conservation programs due
to a loss of revenue from licenses and taxes on sporting
equipment,” according to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.
The alliance says the petition was filed under the “Toxic
Substances Control Act,” which regulates dangerous chemicals.
Further, the alliance contends, it hasn’t been proven that lead
is affecting wildlife species.
“The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and other groups repeatedly have
pointed out that scientific evidence connecting lead ammunition to
the harm of most animal populations is inconclusive,” the press
The organizations that filed the petition say their research
“The science on this issue is massive in breadth and
unimpeachable in its integrity,” said AMC President George Fenwick
in a press release.
Along with the American Bird Conservancy, others in the
coalition filing the petition include the Center for Biological
Diversity (which recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to restore timber wolves to more of their historic range
where habitat is suitable), the Association of Avian Veterinarians,
the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the
hunters group, Project Gutpile.
“It’s long past time to do something about this deadly – and
preventable – epidemic of lead poisoning in the wild,” said Jeff
Miller, of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press
According to the coalition, the petition references nearly 500
scientific studies – most of which have been peer-reviewed – that
illustrate the dangers of lead ammunition and fishing tackle.
“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,” the release says.
The health risks extend to humans, the petition states, in the
form of lead bullet particles in shot game, that can spread to meat
that humans eat.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation calls the groups
involved in the petition “agenda-driven.” Foundation President
Steve Sanetti says, “There is simply no scientific evidence that
the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on
wildlife populations that would require restricting or banning the
use of traditional ammunition beyond current limitations, such as
the scientifically based restriction on waterfowl hunting.”
Robert Johns, director of public relations for the American Bird
Conservancy, said the EPA has 90 days to decide whether or not to
accept the group’s petition.
If it does, a public comment period would follow; if not, the
groups could consider further action, possibly a lawsuit. Johns
says the responses to the petition – and there have been many –
have ranged from support for the petition to others who said, “what
were you thinking?”
He said the petition isn’t meant to be anti-hunting, and
acknowledged the conservation dollars hunting (and fishing)
provide. But, he adds, in the recent past, lead was removed from
paint, petroleum, and children’s toys.
“Many sectors of society are understanding the need to get the
lead out,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise to the hunting
Rob Sexton, vice president of government relations for the U.S.
Sportsmen’s Alliance, said such a drastic action isn’t warranted
based on the limited knowledge about the direct effects of lead
ingestion on birds and animals.
Further, previous actions (the lead ban for waterfowl included,
from the early 1990s), resulted in an immediate drop in hunter
participation (with a slow return to past levels); the same would
happen if lead were banned for all ammo, Sexton said.