Why It Matters: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier federal agency dedicated to conserving and managing our nation’s fish and wildlife. As such, it is critical for the Service to follow substantiated science when making fish and wildlife management decisions, including examining methods of take such as lead ammo and tackle. Generally, efforts to ban and place restrictions on lead ammunition and fishing tackle are based on concerns regarding mortality of animals due to incidental ingestion. However, the proposed Hunt Fish Rule does not clearly provide any justification to limit traditional ammunition and tackle within certain refuge units.
On August 7, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a comment letter, signed by 30 of the top sporting-conservation organizations, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of efforts to expand hunting and fishing opportunities, but also to express our concerns with the effort to phase out the use of traditional ammunition and tackle.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the 2022 – 2023 proposed Hunt Fish Rule. The proposed rule seeks to increase access for sportsmen and women across 54,000 acres within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Unfortunately, the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to phase out the use of lead ammunition and tackle for expanded opportunities within nine NWRS units, effective in 2026.
In response to the proposed Hunt Fish Rule, CSF led a comment letter to express the support of the sporting-conservation community to strengthen access for hunters and anglers, but also to express the strong concerns from the community regarding seemingly arbitrary efforts to limit traditional lead and ammunition. In the letter, CSF and partners stated:
“Science-based fish and wildlife conservation is the cornerstone of our organizations and is a fundamental component to how federal and state fish and wildlife agencies manage our natural resources. Importantly, with rare exceptions, terrestrial and aquatic animals are managed to objectives for the population, not each animal. Blanket regulations on lead products commonly used for decades or longer by sportsmen and women based on unsubstantiated assumptions threatens to undermine how we have successfully managed fish and wildlife for the last century.”
CSF applauds the Service for supporting sportsmen and women by seeking to enhance hunting and fishing access opportunities within the NWRS. However, CSF is concerned to see the Service proposing to restrict the use of lead ammo and tackle for certain expanded sporting opportunities without clear, definitive science that shows it is necessary to limit this important method of take. While this proposal only phases out lead ammo and tackle for the hunting and fishing opportunities expanded as part of this rule within nine identified refuges, CSF is concerned about the potential precedent this may set for future refuge management decisions.
CSF will continue to work with the Service and other federal agencies to enhance access for sportsmen and women while simultaneously opposing efforts that seek to limit access and traditional methods of take, such as the use of lead ammo and tackle.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?