Why it Matters: Often, the tragic loss of a raptor, such as a bald eagle, due to the ingestion of lead, results in the introduction of legislation that seeks to limit or outright ban the use of lead ammunition and tackle. These efforts often ignore many of the existing variables that must be weighed and considered when looking to restrict such uses. First, authority over the management of fish and wildlife must be left within the jurisdiction of the state’s respective agency. Additionally, non-lead ammunition and tackle options are often cost-prohibitive and not widely available, and as the markets have shown (primarily for ammunition), supply is still struggling to meet demand. Lastly, the inability to locate non-lead options, especially those that are reasonably affordable, has the potential to stave-off participation, which in-turn may result in a loss of revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies through the American System of Conservation Funding.
Kicking off the third installment of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) summer series webinar, Jake McGuigan, Managing Director, Government Relations-State Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) provided a history on lead bans in the U.S., from their origins on the west coast driven by impacts to California condors (beginning with a narrow focus that has since broadened to state-wide) and taking attendees up to recently defeated attempts to ban the use of lead in the northeast. Jake also spoke to the state of the industry from an economics standpoint and some of NSSF’s efforts on behalf of the sporting community.
Following Jake was Mike Leonard, Vice President, Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), who provided an equally informational presentation on the state of the industry and market conditions but from an angling perspective. Mike spoke to the use of lead tackle by America’s anglers and the shortcomings of non-traditional weights, such as the exorbitant price differential between tungsten (non-traditional) and lead (traditional).
Up next was Tom Decker, a Certified Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) who works nationally on a collaborative initiative entitled “Partner With A Payer.” Tom provided an insightful talk on the Wildlife Restoration apportionments over the past decade, as well as the potential for state fish and wildlife agencies to fund human dimensions surveys on the use of lead which could be funded through WSFR.
The next presenter was Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). Nate provided a state agency’s perspective on the balancing act that must be considered when weighing in on lead ammunition bans. Nate spoke to the benefits of a voluntary and educational approach to encourage sportsmen and women to switch to lead alternatives and also discussed a recent bill in Maine that would have banned the use of lead ammunition while hunting.
Wrapping up the webinar was Commissioner Louis Porter from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. Commissioner Porter provided an invaluable look at the topic of lead ammunition and tackle bans from the lens of a state fish and wildlife agency leader, remarking on the weight that’s given to the state’s biologists and those working on the ground to collect data, and reaffirming the voluntary and educational approach being preferable to statutory bans.
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?