On Aug. 8, the California Fish and Game Commission rejected a proposal to expand the ban on the use of lead ammunition that applies to hunting in certain parts of California, striking a blow for freedom in what has become a nationwide assault on hunting with traditional ammunition. The proposal would have expanded the existing ban on the use of lead ammunition, now applicable only in the “Condor Zone,” to also include state wildlife areas, ecological reserves and depredation hunts.
Ammunition ban proponents urged the commissioners to publish the proposed expansion for public comment, a necessary step toward getting it formally adopted. The National Rifle Association and California Rifle and Pistol Association representatives, scientists and lawyers opposed the proposal.
Ban proponents touted two recent studies by University of California (uc) Davis researchers. The studies use flawed methodology to claim that golden eagles and turkey vultures have significantly higher blood-lead levels during hunting season, in comparison to the off-season, and that lead exposure in both species declined significantly after the implementation of the current ban.
Proponents also relied on a study by uc Santa Cruz researchers, who recently published a paper that admitted that the ban on lead ammunition in the “Condor Zone” did nothing to reduce condor blood-lead levels, but still insist that condor lead exposure and poisoning is due to hunters’ use of lead ammunition.
An extensive investigation by the nra revealed that the most recent study was based on data that was cherry picked to support pre-conceived conclusions. The nra made clear to the commission that the data actually showed the opposite of what proponents were claiming: Condor blood-lead levels actually slightly increased after the current ban was implemented. The nra also obtained information from the Department of Fish and Game showing that 99 percent of all hunters were complying with the lead ammunition ban in the “Condor Zone.”
The commission rejected the proposed expansion of the lead ammo ban and abandoned any effort to open a formal public comment period on the proposed regulations.
California is not alone in debating this issue. In recent years, hunters have faced lead ammunition ban proposals in Iowa, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Washington.
In 2010, a coalition of anti-hunting groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity (cbd) began petitioning the u.s. Environmental Protection Agency (epa) to ban the use of lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (tsca). The epa has now rejected two such petitions, as the tsca includes a specific exemption for ammunition. Undeterred, the cbd is trying to use the denials to set up a federal court decision imposing a ban.
To combat the federal threat, the nra is working with its allies in Congress to secure even stronger language barring the epa from using the tsca to regulate ammunition (or its components). That language is part of the “Sportsmen’s Act of 2012.” The House has already passed this vital legislation, but at press time the Senate version of the bill—
s. 3525—has yet to be voted on.