Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Commentary: Group seeks lead ban on ammo, fishing tackle for NPS properties

Sportsmen’s Alliance Report

On Nov. 17, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a petition to ban the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on all property managed by the National Park Service. According to the petition, this includes more than 51 million acres open to hunting, comprising more than 60% of the land area in the system.

The PEER petition cites the 2022 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hunt/fish rule, which began the process of banning lead ammo and tackle on national wildlife refuges this past summer. As with the USFWS hunt/fish rule, the PEER petition argues for this broad and expansive rule – a total ban – due to lead’s known toxicity but fails to cite specific evidence of population-level effects on particular NPS properties of concern.

As the Sportsmen’s Alliance forecast, the USFWS effort to ban lead is being followed by other groups, and potentially more agencies.

The PEER petition also mimics the USFWS hunt/fish rule by being highly dismissive of any claims that lead bans will reduce hunting and fishing participation. Hunters and anglers remain the backbone of fish and wildlife funding in America, and yet, PEER rejects this argument out of hand, stating, without any evidence, that such costs will be “minimal” and of no concern.

“As we stated earlier about the USFWS hunt/fish rule, these bans, which fail to show specific population-level effects, are highly irresponsible,” said Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs at the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “In every case, we have no idea how many hunters and anglers will be driven away by the high cost of alternatives, so we strongly condemn such actions when there is no hard science to back up the bans in the first place.”

The PEER press release

Editor’s note: For background behind the Sportsmen’s Alliance statement, here is the PEER release on lead ammo in national parks.

The National Park Service would no longer allow the use or sale of lead-based ammunition or fishing tackle under a rule-making petition being advanced by a coalition of conservation and wildlife-protection groups spearheaded by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the American Bird Conservancy, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Under the plan, the NPS would join 26 states and countries that have already banned lead ammo.

The ecological stakes are profound. Altogether, more than 130 park wildlife species are exposed to or killed by ingesting lead or prey contaminated with lead.

Lead is a leading threat to bird life, especially bald eagles, hawks, and other raptors, as well as other birds from loons to condors.

Lead fragments from spent shells remain lodged throughout the wildlife food chain.

Lost lead fishing tackle leads to elevated levels of lead in fish and amphibians.

“Banning lead from our national parks would be one of the single biggest conservation advances in a generation,” said Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, noting that early in the Obama years, the NPS briefly announced such a ban, called, “Get the Lead Out,” but reversed course under opposition from the National Rifle Association and ammunition and gun manufacturers.

While most parks by law do not permit hunting, some 76 of the total 423 national parks allow recreational, subsistence, or tribal hunting. However, those parks with hunting (the largest are in Alaska) cover more than 60% of land within the entire national park system. In addition, more than 85% of parks with fish (213 in all) are open for fishing.

“The science is clear: Lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle are harmful to wildlife and human health,” said Jacob Carter, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The National Park Service should heed the evidence, protect our public lands and wildlife, and ban lead from our national parks.”

In September, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a phase-out of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in 18 national wildlife refuges.

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