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National Park Service Ban on Lead Ammo, Fishing Gear Draws Ire of Shooting Sports Foundation


Not everyone is happy with the National Park Service's ban on lead ammunition and fishing gear.

What seemed to be a fairly innocuous announcement, that the National Park Service was banning lead ammunition and fishing gear throughout the National Park System, has drawn the ire of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The announcement Tuesday by the Park Service will have relatively little impact on hunters, as most national park units ban hunting. But that didn't stop the hunting group from quickly criticizing the decision.

"The National Park Service's decision is arbitrary, over-reactive and not based on science," Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, said Wednesday. "Studies show that traditional ammunition does not pose a health risk to humans, or wildlife populations as a whole."

In Washington, the Park Service's acting director, Dan Wenk, said the desire to reduce lead in national park environments led to the ban.

“Our goal is to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in parks by the end of 2010,” said Mr. Wenk. “We want to take a leadership role in removing lead from the environment.”

According to a Park Service release, "the new lead reduction efforts also include changes in NPS activities, such as culling operations or the dispatching of wounded or sick animals. Rangers and resource managers will use non-lead ammunition to prevent environmental contamination as well as lead poisoning of scavenger species who may eventually feed upon the carcass. Non-toxic substitutes for lead made in the United States are now widely available including tungsten, copper, and steel."

Mr. Wenk also said the agency would develop educational materials to increase awareness about the consequences of lead exposure and the benefits of using lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle.

Lead is an environmental contaminant affecting many areas of the world, including the national parks, the acting director said. Lead already is banned in gasoline, children’s toys, and paint because of its effects on human health. In the United States, there is an accelerating trend to expand efforts to reduce lead contamination associated with firearms and hunting, he added.

California and Arizona have recently implemented mandatory and voluntary bans, respectively, on lead ammunition to facilitate California condor recovery. And Yellowstone National Park has had restrictions on lead fishing tackle for years to protect native species and their habitats.

Back at the shooting sports foundation, officials questioned whether the Park Service had made its decision to ban lead blindly, saying the agency "appears to have made its decision without requesting input from wildlife management and conservation groups, or ammunition manufacturers."

"There is no evidence of traditional ammunition harming humans or wildlife populations that would warrant this kind of drastic policy change," said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.

The shooting organization added that traditional lead ammunition is "best suited" for dispatching wounded or sick animals or for culling operations. Lead ammunition costs less than the alternatives, the group said, and hunters are more familiar with its performance.

"Hunters also are agreeable to taking voluntary measures, such as burying entrails after field dressing game, to prevent scavengers from ingesting lead fragments," the group's editorial said.

Furthermore, the group said that:

Ammunition containing lead components has been the choice of hunters for well over 100 years, during which time wildlife populations in America have surged. While lead ingestion appears to occur in a small number of individual animals, overall populations are unaffected. Also, there has never been a documented case of lead poisoning among humans who have eaten game taken with traditional ammunition, and a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on North Dakota hunters who consumed game confirmed that there was no reason for concern over eating game taken with traditional ammunition.

Unfortunately, the park service's decision to ban traditional ammunition adds to the misinformation being circulated by anti-hunting groups to promote fear among wildlife managers and hunters about traditional ammunition. The park service's news release
makes erroneous comparisons between organic lead found in gasoline and the metallic lead used in ammunition. Banning lead in gasoline and paint was related to public health concerns because of the widespread nature of these substances and ingestion of paint chips by young children. These issues are not associated with lead in ammunition.

But at the Park Service, Acting-Director Wenks said the ban will benefit wildlife, humans, and the environment without harming hunters.

“The reduction and eventual removal of lead on Park Service lands will benefit humans, wildlife, and ecosystems inside and outside park boundaries and continue our legacy of resource stewardship,” he said.


Get over it, NSSF. It's a new day, a new administration, and science is back on the table.
Perhaps the lead present in the entrails of culled animals is minimal, but it's still there. It's toxic, and it will build up over time, perhaps hundreds of years, to present a risk. Why wait until it's an "issue"?
Bravo NPS.

If we spent one dime on researching the environmental impact bullets or sinkers cause in our National Parks then we have too much money!!!...and as we all know, the country does not have money for stuff like this. This is the most ridiculous policy a bureaucrat could think of. Eliminating lead caused by bullets or sinkers in NP's will not enhance or clean the environment. This is not science...this is politics and we all know who they are firing bullets at (hopefully not lead). Next we will will be eliminating camping because of the methane it produces will harm the environment...maybe there should be an environmental impact study on Capitol Hill...I'll bet the methane produced there would be "off the charts".

The vast majority of losses to the Californian Condors in Pinnacles National Monument, California is due to lead poisoning. Hunters in the vicinity of the park shoot game but don't recover it or leave parts of the carcasses in the wild. It is not enough to ban lead ammo from the parks, it should be phased out everywhere.

In many states it is a law that you have to wear a seat belt while driving. If I don't who am I harming other than myself? I'm not a public safty hazard, and I don't think it's anyone's business if I wear one. How do laws like that get started? There is usually a larger motivation, like financial gain by certain interests, than just keeping "me" safe and I think the lead ban falls in that category.

The buzzards at the Pinnacles National Momument have to be trapped every two years (at taxpayers expense) and have their stomachs pumped becauce they eat anything and everything. and that's why they are nearly extinct. I live in Hollister, don't hunt anymore, would like to, copper bullets are a joke, game run off to die. Lead is a poison .... agreeded. Why can't people just come out and say ban guns and be done with it? Hypocrites! Kurt don't let the subject die. I've got five guns that I cannot legally fire where I live. They are locked in a gun safe in an alarmed house. Pretty much sucks. Can't wait to get out of the Kommunist Repiblik of Kalifornia.

There is some good research to support this action. Here are a few highlights:

1. A study led by environmental toxicologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz confirmed that bullet fragments and shotgun pellets in the carcasses of animals killed by hunters are the principal sources of lead poisoning in California condors. The researchers used a "fingerprinting" technique based on the unique isotope ratios found in different sources of lead to match the lead in blood samples from condors to the lead in ammunition, as distinguished from other sources of lead. You can read the full article here:

2. A conference on the effects of lead ammunition on wildlife and humans was held at Boise State University in 2008. You can download the abstract of the proceedings here: Here are a few highlights:

At least 2377 trumpeter and tundra swans have died in northwestern Washington and southwestern British Columbia from 1999-2007. Most (78%) of the fatalities were attributed to ingestion of lead shot.

Studies have found lead in the blood of 97% Bald Eagles and 85% of Golden Eagles captured as spring migrants in Montana during 1985-1993; they implicated lead bullet fragments in ground squirrel carcasses as one source.

Lead poisoning by shot or bullet ingestion has been described in 12 species of birds of prey in Europe, some of which are near threatened, e.g., the white-tailed eagle or endangered, i.e., the Spanish imperial eagle.

Ingested lead shotgun pellets and rifle bullet fragments have been shown to be an important source of lead poisoning in raptors, avian scavengers, water birds, and even seed-eating birds.

Mourning doves confuse shotgun pellets for grit and grain around hunted stock ponds and accordingly die in large numbers.

3. In 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned lead ammo in waterfowl hunting — that of ducks and other birds that live on water — which, according to a FWS spokesperson, led to an estimated 64% reduction of lead poisoning in ducks on certain parts of the Mississippi.

So.... what's the objection to a requirement that hunters shift to other types of ammo that don't contribute to the lead problem? Alternatives to lead ammo are more expensive, and some hunters claim they are not as accurate or "lack the destructive power to humanely kill the target animal," although some presenters at the Boise conference mentioned above refuted that argument.

There's also a political component. Google this issue and you'll soon find some passionate discussion about yet another attempt to limit the rights of hunters.

My personal take? Given the basic mandate of the NPS, I'd say the agency is correct to err on the side of caution. There's enough evidence on the potential harm of lead to wildlife and even to humans to support this action in NPS areas. When it comes to the risks posed by lead shot in the natural environment of national parks, there's more than enough data to suggest the presence of a literal smoking gun—and it fired lead ammo.

Hunter's seem to have adapted to the 1991 ban on lead ammo for waterfowl hunting; they can adapt to this one as well.

I may be opening a can of worms here, but, how will this translate to the carrying a concealed weapon in Nat. Parks? Will everyone who carries have to switch to ammo other than lead? What would happen if they were caught with lead ammo in a concealed weapon in a Nat. Park? Just feul for thought, have at it.

That's certainly an obvious and tempting question, Eric....which is why I didn't bring it up in the original post;-) Maybe it's a backdoor way to conduct weapons checks in the parks and ban those with lead, or at least remove the bullets!

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