New bill would ban lead ammunition on refuges

By Laura Bies

Legislation recently introduced in Congress would ban the use of lead ammunition across the National Wildlife Refuge System. Credit: Scott Whitlock/USFWS

A recently introduced bill would prohibit the use of lead ammunition on National Wildlife Refuges.

Last month, Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced the “Lead Endangers Animals Daily Act (LEAD)” (H.R. 7547), which would phase in a requirement to use only nontoxic ammunition across the National Wildlife Refuge System, in an effort to reduce exposure to lead by wildlife.

Lead ammunition has been banned for use in waterfowl hunting since 1991. Its use in other types of hunting and for target and sport shooting has been a topic of considerable debate in recent years.

In early 2017, then-Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe issued an order requiring the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022. He cited the “risk to upland or terrestrial migratory birds and other species that ingest spent shot directly from the ground or as a result of predating or scavenging carcasses that have been killed with lead ammunition.”

The Wildlife Society expressed support for the 2017 order, though requested additional coordination with stakeholder groups in the implementation process. The order received mixed reviews from other conservation stakeholders, and it was rescinded by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in March 2017 shortly after the new administration took office.

A number of states have developed policies to encourage the use of nontoxic ammunition. California was the first state to implement a state-wide ban, prohibiting the use of lead ammunition in all types of hunting across the state last year.  At least 15 other states have less wide-ranging restrictions.

The LEAD Act was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee in July; the committee has not taken action on the bill. Given the coming August recess and then the election in November, Congress is unlikely to act on the bill, although it could be reintroduced in future Congresses.

The Wildlife Society recognizes that lead has been known to be a broad-spectrum toxicant to humans and wildlife and advocates for the replacement of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle with nontoxic products. The Society acknowledges that the complete replacement may not be possible in specific circumstances.

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

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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