On October 13, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a proposed rule to ban lead shot on all wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the far western and southern half of Minnesota. The affected area is referred to as the “Farmland Zone,” and contains almost 1,300 of the state’s 1,524 WMAs, approximating 600,000 acres of public land. The 70,000 pheasant hunters currently residing in Minnesota frequent this region to pursue birds on public land, and the proposed rule would disproportionally affect these upland game bird hunters, as well as those hunting wild turkey, dove, and other small game species. The proposed rule does not apply to hunters using single-projectile ammunition, such as rifles or shotguns with slugs.
Currently, no scientific evidence indicates that the use of lead shot by hunters has impacted wildlife populations. State fish and wildlife agencies are tasked with managing wildlife at the population level, not the individual level, to ensure that conservation decisions made today will help ensure healthy wildlife numbers into the future. Non-lead shot alternatives such as copper, nickel, or zinc plated steel, are more expensive. Forcing this financial strain on the sportsmen’s community, who are considered America’s original conservationists, can have detrimental consequences to continued wildlife conservation efforts.
The relationship between ammunition sales and wildlife conservation in the United States dates back to 1937, when Congress first passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Conservation Act (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), backed by the outdoor industry, creating an excise tax on all firearms and ammunition sold in this country. These funds are redistributed to the various state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation efforts. This funding mechanism, in concert with the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act (also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act), passed in 1950, and all revenues procured through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, has become known as the American System of Conservation Funding and has generated nearly $57 billion for fish and wildlife conservation since its inception.
It is for this reason, regulatory changes that create undue financial burdens for sportsmen and women and do not measurably benefit wildlife must be addressed and combated. The public comment period for this proposed regulatory change is closed. A public hearing date and time is pending.
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?