February 15, 2012

EPA Denies Petition Seeking Ban on Lead Based Fishing Products

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Science has prevailed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)—an anti-sportsmen group—that would have precipitated significant restrictions on lead fishing tackle all over the United States. The CBD wanted the EPA to use the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to heavily regulate anglers from using tackle they have long used even though science doesn’t support such a measure. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been, and will continue to, fight such unscientific lead bans and restrictions at the state and federal level.

In a letter to the CBD on February 14, 2012 the EPA wrote:

“After careful review, EPA has determined that, while the petition does provide evidence of exposure and a risk to waterfowl in some areas of the United States, it does not provide a basis for finding that the risk presented is an unreasonable risk for which federal action under section 6(a) of TSCA is necessary to adequately protect against such risks. Accordingly, EPA is denying your request to initiate a proceeding for the issuance of a rulemaking under Section 6(a) of TSCA to adequately protect against risks posed by fishing tackle containing lead of various sizes and uses that are ingested by wildlife…. Your petition does not demonstrate why federal action is necessary given the mix of regulatory and education actions state agencies and the Federal Government already are taking to address the impact of lead fishing tackle on local environments.”

When the CBD began its quest for this unwarranted restriction on fishing tackle in 2010, the CSF responded by working with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) in Washington, D.C., and with the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), which serves as the umbrella organization for launching and working with state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses now active in 39 state legislatures, to demand such regulations should be based on sound science and under state jurisdictions. The Executive Council for the NASC, and several state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses, wrote letters to? EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asking that she deny the CBD petition. Meanwhile, the CSF rallied legislators in the CSC and in caucuses around the country to demand that any such ban be based on real scientific evidence; after all, the cost to anglers would be real if affordable tackle is taken off the shelves. The EPA subsequently denied the CBD’s first petition.

However, the CBD filed a new petition with the EPA in November of 2011. This petition asked the EPA to evaluate the unreasonable risk of injury from lead fishing tackle, and to begin proceedings for rule making under Section 6 of TSCA. The CSF stayed engaged at all levels of government. The NASC sent letters from various state sportsmen’s caucuses, including Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Oregon and South Carolina, to point out that state natural resource agencies are in a better position to respond to any localized concerns and that such a restriction is not biologically justified as no studies have shown that fishing tackle is impacting loon or other waterfowl populations.

Also, on April 14, 2011, the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act (S. 838 and H.R. 1558) was introduced into both chambers of Congress by the chairs of the CSC—Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Thune (R-SD) and Representatives Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Mike Ross (D-AR). This legislation is another way the CSF has been working to prevent a federal ban on lead in recreational fishing tackle. It would clarify the TSCA exemption for ammunition and establish a similar exemption for fishing tackle. The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act would put an end to attempts to over-regulate the recreational fishing and hunting industries and protect the rights of anglers and hunters who choose to sustainably enjoy their sports.

Jeff Crane, president of the CSF, says, “Sportsmen and wildlife won a big battle. Though we doubt the Center for Biological Diversity will stop this ideological attack on fishing, the EPA has decided against an unscientific restriction of lead fishing tackle. The state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses, under the umbrella of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, have once again represented their angling constituents admirably.”

If the EPA agreed to this ban it would have been an unjustified fishing restriction at the federal level. Wildlife management in the United States has been a model to the rest of the world because we have successfully managed wildlife at the population level. There is no evidence that lead fishing tackle is causing negative population-level impacts, therefore forcing anglers to replace their lead tackle with costly alternatives would be an unnecessary burden to America’s fishermen and an impediment to fishing participation.

Other sportsmen’s groups, most notably the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), have also been instrumental in fighting back these unnecessary restrictions on America’s anglers right to fish. Click here for more on the conservation communities’ position on lead.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) sole focus is providing a voice for sportsmen in the U.S. Congress, the Administration and federal land management agencies, as well as state legislatures across the country.

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?

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