If I asked 10 sportsmen I know to identify Dan Ashe I doubt any could. Since 2011 and until Jan. 30 of this year, Ashe has been director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It must be said Ashe is passionate about the outdoors and has an impressive list of accomplishments as director. The fly in the ointment, however, is that Ashe, in the final moments of his tenure, signed director’s order 219, which banned the use of traditional ammunition on Fish and Wildlife Service lands within the next five years. This order was issued on the final full day of President Obama’s administration. This action renews an effort the administration began eight years ago to ban the use of traditional (lead) ammunition.
Wildlife biologists have found exposure to lead ammunition and fishing tackle like sinkers has resulted in harmful effects to fish and wildlife species. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, lead poisoning is a toxicosis caused by the absorption of hazardous levels of lead in body tissues. Ingested lead pellets from shotgun shells have been a common source of lead poisoning in birds. The Service recognized the problem of avian exposure to lead shot used for waterfowl hunting and enacted restrictions in 1991.
In addition, the order stated the use of lead ammunition, when used to hunt other species, is a serious threat to other forms of wildlife. Lead ammunition presents an ongoing risk to upland or terrestrial migratory birds and other species that ingest spent shot directly from the ground or as a result of preying or scavenging carcasses that have been killed with lead ammunition and left in the field. Not surprisingly, Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation had a different opinion and responded to the order by saying, “This directive is irresponsible and driven not out of sound science but unchecked politics. The timing alone is suspect. This directive was published without dialogue with industry, sportsmen and conservationists. The next director should immediately rescind this, and instead create policy based upon scientific evidence of population impacts with regard to the use of traditional ammunition.”
The order will have a direct impact on sportsmen because it requires several initiatives to go into effect immediately. According to information provided by the NSSF, regional directors are to work with state agencies to ban the use of traditional ammunition on federal lands. It also ends the use of traditional ammunition on National Park tracts, tribal lands and national wildlife refuges in order to mirror policies in states where traditional ammunition is already restricted. The order “expeditiously” bans traditional ammunition “when available information indicates” and implies that lead is harmful to wildlife, without any requirement of a scientific threshold on which to base that action. It also requires creation of a timeline to restrict traditional ammunition for dove and upland bird hunting. In response, U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) sent a letter to the acting director of the USFWS asking for documents regarding the order. It remains to be seen how this current administration views this problem.