Minnesota rejects lead ammunition ban

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a petition last week to ban lead ammunition in hunting and lead fishing tackle on waters where loons are known to nest in the state.

The petitioners, led by Friends of Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas, argued that the lead in fishing tackle and ammunition pose a wildlife health hazard and cited evidence that loons, eagles and other species are affected. The Department of Natural Resources agreed that the health and environmental effects of lead ammunition and fishing tackle deserved further study but determined that state legislature, not the agency, should consider any lead restrictions in ammunition and tackle.

This radiograph of an immature bald eagle shows numerous lead shot in its digestive tract. ©Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

In late 2015, the DNR issued a proposal to ban lead shot for small game on wildlife management areas in the farmland zone, the traditionally prairie part of the state. However, in 2017, the state legislature approved a measure that prevented the commission from prohibiting lead shot until after July 1, 2019.

The Wildlife Society’s position statement on Lead in Ammunition and Fishing Tackle acknowledges that “lead has no functional or beneficial role in biological systems.” The Society’s position is to “advocate for the replacement of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle with nontoxic products, while recognizing that complete replacement may not be possible in specific circumstances.”

Lead shot in waterfowl hunting was banned throughout the United States in 1991. Since then, many states have enacted further restrictions on lead fishing tackle and ammunition. Earlier this year, California was the first state to entirely ban the use of lead hunting ammunition.

Read TWS’ Position Statement on Lead in Ammunition and Fishing Tackle.

Header Image: he Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a petition to ban lead ammunition. ©Cortney Dean