Most Americans probably missed this one, given the dizzying pace of political developments these days. But no sooner had Ryan Zinke been confirmed as Secretary of Department of Interior than he struck down an Obama Administration rule which was hastily adopted on January 19, the day before President Trump assumed office. The rule, supported by environmental advocates and activists like PETA, was effective immediately and banned the use of all lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands, such as national parks and wildlife refuges.
While environmental advocates hailed the decision, it enraged many mainstream hook’n bullet groups, like the NRA, B.A.S.S., Sportfishing Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. These groups welcomed Zinke’s action overturning the ban.
Historically, lead has been the choice of hunters and fishermen because it’s inexpensive and it performs well.
IF this was the right thing to do from an environmental perspective then it begs the question why President Obama waited until the 11th hour to issue the ban without any consultation with States or stakeholder groups. From a conservation perspective, the lead-ban makes perfect sense, as lead poisoning of wildlife is a major problem. According to Ducks Unlimited, historic deaths of waterfowl from lead poisoning are estimated at between 1.6 million and 2.4 million birds annually. Most of these deaths are caused by ducks ingesting spent lead pellets as they feed. Similarly, lead poisoning is the leading cause of death to the endangered condor, that can ingest spent lead bullets in deer carcasses.
But politically, the lead-ban is a political quagmire. Opponents of the lead-ban argue that substitutes, such as copper and tungsten, cost more and and aren’t as readily available, which could reduce the amount of hunting and fishing.
I was reminded this weekend of the strong emotions that inform this public debate. My friend, Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited, simply posted on FB an article titled “Why Switch?” – which lays out compelling scientific reasons to make the switch from a toxic to non-toxic ammo such as copper or tungsten. One FB reader – we’ll call him Mike to protect his identity – obviously took issue with this suggestion:
Sorry Chris lead bullets are cool again f*ck the EPA and all of Obama’s and (sic) regulations.
Nice – effective argument! Needless to say, that improvident volley prompted a few incoming rounds of its own.
Mike ended his discussion:
Ok snowflakes its ok if you dont have common sense. I will be selling 100% lead split shot and sinkers. Will be selling lead bullets for muzzleloaders at my flea market booth this spring, screw the EPA.
Needless to say, but first of all this wasn’t an EPA regulation. But, on a more serious note, while I appreciate the fact that non-lead ammo and fishing tackle can be more expensive and more difficult to find, these 21st century problems are fixable (announce a future date of a lead-ban 2 years from now to give munition companies and consumers time to adjust). And while the Obama Administration committed a major process foul that warranted yanking the regulation, whether to ban lead ammunition and tackle is a legitimate conservation (and conservative) debate.
Lead is bad for humans and it’s bad for wildlife, period. Just as we banned lead from our paint products and gasoline, because it was harmful to human health, we should do the same thing to protect wildlife. Now, let’s figure out a way to fix this fixable problem.
And to those outdoorsmen who care about conservation and protecting our wildlife resources and who have the financial means to make the switch, why wouldn’t you? For the life of me, I don’t get people like Mike, unless of course,such response is simply a knee-jerk reaction to his political opponents. Of course, there might also be a less well articulated opposition to the ban – those with a survivalist mentality who use lead to make their ammo.
While the regulatory and political debate rages on, one question I’ll put out there, where is a call by the conservation community for more self-regulation? Perhaps if we had more people using common-sense and regulating their own behavior – as opposed to pig-headed people like Mike – there wouldn’t be a need to adopt new laws and regulations.