April 17, 2023

Minnesota Budget Bill would Ban Lead Sinkers

Article Contact: Bob Matthews,

Why It Matters: Prohibiting the use of lead fishing equipment in certain Minnesota waters is likely to have a negative impact on anglers’ ability to enjoy their favorite pastime, and it would also negatively impact revenue realized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


  • Minnesota House File 2310, the House Natural Resource budget bill, creates a new section of law that would require the Commissioner of Natural Resources to designate certain waters as Swan Protection Areas.
  • Within these protection areas, which may only be designated in the seven-county metropolitan area surrounding Minneapolis-St. Paul, anglers would not be permitted to use lead sinkers.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has opposed multiple bills this session that would limit the ability to use lead fishing equipment to varying degrees and will continue to oppose this legislation.

Minnesota HF 2310, the House Natural Resource budget bill, includes language that would require the Commissioner of Natural Resources, Sarah Strommen, to designate certain waters surrounding Minneapolis-St. Paul as Swan Protection Areas, where Minnesotans would be prohibited from using lead sinkers while fishing. In the original version of the bill, on which CSF submitted testimony and actively worked to oppose, the Commissioner would have been able to designate any water in the Mississippi River Valley as a Swan Protection Area, which would have encompassed the entire state.

Fish and wildlife management decisions made by state fish and wildlife agencies across the country are guided by population-level data, not on individuals within those populations.  There is currently no scientific evidence to support the argument that lead sinkers are negatively impacting swan populations. Management decisions regarding swan populations should be left to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and follow the same standard that is applied to other Minnesota species managed by the agency.

A functional ban on lead sinkers would make it extremely difficult for anglers to comply with the new regulations and would jeopardize both the state’s recreational fishing industry and funding for the DNR. Angling supports more than 28,000 jobs in the state and generates more than $4.4 billion annually. Through the American System of Conservation Funding, the sale of fishing licenses and excise taxes on outdoor equipment like fishing poles and tackle also supports the mission of the DNR. However, because there are not enough functionally equivalent, non-lead sinker options on the market to meet the demand of the many sportsmen and women that enjoy Minnesota’s storied waters, the state may experience lower participation rates, fewer licenses sold, and fewer outdoor goods purchased.

Although the language that presently exists in the budget bill is limited to sinkers and to waters in certain counties, CSF opposed a different bill this session, HF 944, that would have prohibited the use of lead tackle, including jigs, throughout the state. Banning the use of any lead fishing equipment is an unfounded approach that does not produce population-level benefits. Instead, it only harms the economy that the recreational fishing industry supports and the efforts of the DNR. CSF will continue to oppose this bill and others like it.

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