The National Deer Association (NDA) welcomed the introduced of Sen. Steve Daines’ (R-MT) Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act. The bill, which prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from prohibiting the use of lead ammunition or tackle on certain Federal land or water unless certain conditions are met, is in response to recently proposed lead ammunition and tackle restrictions and phase-outs on certain federal wildlife refuges.
“Sen. Daines’ Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act ensures continued access for both through decision making requirements founded in strong science and wildlife agency support,” said Nick Pinizzotto, NDA President & CEO. “If lead-use changes must be made to benefit wildlife management programs, the NDA believes that any transition from lead to non-lead ammunition for hunting should be voluntary and incentive-based, focusing on educating hunters and shooters about non-lead alternatives and the efficacy and availability of non-lead ammunition.”
The bill restricts federal agencies from prohibiting the use of lead ammunition or tackle on Federal land or water that is made available for hunting or fishing activities or from issuing regulations relating to the level of lead in ammunition or tackle. Importantly, the bill does offer some exceptions. Namely, a prohibition or regulations may be implemented if it’s determined that a decline in wildlife populations at the specific unit of Federal land or water is primarily caused by the use of lead in ammunition or tackle and the prohibition or regulations are:
- consistent with the law of the State in which the specific Federal land or water is located;
- consistent with an applicable policy of the fish and wildlife department of the State in which the specific Federal land or water is located; or
- approved by the applicable fish and wildlife department of the State in which the specific Federal land or water is located.
In recent legislative sessions throughout the nation, bills introduced with the intention to ban the use of lead ammunition for hunting have become more common and have garnered more attention from lawmakers and environmentalists. The intent behind banning the use of lead ammunition for hunting has three prongs: environmental health, wildlife health and human health. Namely, wildlife concerns revolve around specific species – avian scavengers – and the available data models suggest a limited impact to population growth of these species.
While these concerns should be considered and monitored, the NDA believes that current science on these subjects does not warrant a full ban on the use of lead ammunition while hunting. Rather, we think resources would be better spent educating hunters and shooters about non-lead alternatives, the efficacy and availability of non-lead ammunition and providing incentives for hunters and shooters to switch from lead to non-lead ammunition.
Ammunition (in any form) is currently difficult to find, and manufacturers are severely backlogged and struggling to keep shelves stocked. Availability of non-lead ammunition is even worse – and more expensive. Outright bans on lead ammunition, without prior education, incentives or phasing, will severely hinder hunters’ ability to head afield, both impacting wildlife management programs and the American system of conservation funding.