New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition

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An endangered California condor soars over Zion National Park. As carrion eaters, condors are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Let them eat lead …

Staff Report

Toxic lead is back on the menu for many wildlife species, as newly appointed  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revoked a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service order that had banned lead hunting ammunition on federal wildlife reserves after a years-long campaign by wildlife advocates.

The USFWS order was finalized the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. In his reversal, Zinke made no reference to the extensive body of science showing that lead ammunition is harmful to wildlife.

His first move as Interior Secretary should make it clear that anybody who had been hoping Zinke would be a reasonable voice in the new anti-environment administration was sorely mistaken. Along with the rest of Trump’s cabinet picks, Zinke seems likely to move ahead at full speed in dismantling as many environmental protections as possible.

Spent lead ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure. A change to nontoxic hunting ammunition is a common sense move that prevents wildlife and hunters from being exposed to a poison that causes brain damage in humans and has been linked with the decline of several wildlife species.

“It’s ironic that one of the first actions by Secretary Zinke, who fancies himself a champion of hunters and anglers, leads to poisoning of game and waterfowl eaten by those same hunting families,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a press release, the CBD explained that  scientists, doctors and public-health experts have long called for a ban on lead hunting ammunition, citing overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic dangers posed to people and wildlife. A national poll found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting.

The phaseout of lead ammunition is nothing new. Waterfowl hunters have successfully been using affordable nontoxic shot for more than 25 years. California will phase out lead ammunition by 2019, providing urgently needed protections for iconic and critically endangered California condor, hawks, owls and eagles.

“It’s another sad day for public health and wildlife under the Trump presidency when special interests again prevail over common-sense environmental safeguards,” said Evans.

Looking to cash in on the $30 million it spent on ads promoting Trump’s election, the National Rifle Association pressured Interior Secretary Zinke to quickly reverse the Obama administration’s science-based decision to get the lead out of our most pristine refuges.

As a congressman, Zinke (R-Mont.) had a 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters; when it came to endangered species, he voted against protecting them 100 percent of the time.

Studies tracked the toxic impacts of lead with radiographs, showing that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.

Scientific studies have debunked arguments from the gun lobby that price and availability of nonlead ammunition precludes switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting; researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers. As of 2013 more than three dozen manufacturers market affordable nonlead bullets in 35 calibers and 51 rifle cartridge designations.

Read more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

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2 thoughts on “New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition

  1. I know for a fact that eagles are being killed, but not by lead….

    Dec 14, 2016

    The Obama administration on Wednesday finalized a rule that lets wind-energy companies operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years — even if means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles.
    Under the new rule, wind companies and other power providers will not face a penalty if they kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles, nearly four times the current limit. Deaths of the more rare golden eagles would be allowed without penalty so long as companies minimize losses by taking steps such as retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.

  2. Perhaps you would “get the lead out” and update your petition page to reflect the letter should be to Trump not Obama.

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