by Mark Chesnut - Monday, October 30, 2023
A new federal rule opening several areas on National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lands to hunting but at the same time banning the use of traditional lead ammunition on several other wildlife refuges is drawing fire from the National Rifle Association and other pro-hunting and conservation organizations.
The Final Rule, expected to be published soon, would ban the use of traditional lead ammunition on eight national wildlife refuges and lead fishing tackle on seven NWRs. At the same time, it would open 48 new distinct hunting opportunities across approximately 3,000 acres of NWRs—all of which would also forbid the use of lead ammo.
“Once again, the Biden-Harris administration is giving sportsmen a bad deal,” said Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “The USFWS rulemaking comes as no surprise as this administration is willing to ignore the science to achieve its ultimate goal of limiting longstanding methods of take across the nation. The NRA will continue to fight against sweeping bans that ignore science and pander to anti-hunting extremists.”
The push to ban lead ammunition on various public lands is a contentious one for several reasons, and the NRA has been involved in the fight against such a ban for decades. As we’ve reported in the past and as NRA-ILA regularly explains, such a ban would make hunting more difficult and more expensive for hunters who want to access these public lands.
Non-lead ammunition, often made of copper alloys, is routinely cited as being at least 25 percent more expensive than traditional lead varieties. It also can be very difficult to find at retail operations as there simply is not that much of it made compared to traditional lead ammunition. Additionally, those pushing lead ammunition bans are doing so without proof that lead ammunition is harming wildlife populations on public lands, including national wildlife refuges.
The most recent action in the NRA’s battle against lead ammo bans came in September when the NRA, Safari Club International (SCI) and the Sportsman’s Alliance Foundation filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit National Wildlife Refuge Association v. Halland that is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case revolves around the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) decision last year to withdraw plans to ban hunting with lead ammunition on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia in exchange for not granting the refuge any expanded hunting opportunities.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearm industry trade association, also spoke out strongly against the soon-to-be announced final rule trading opening hunting lands for a lead ammo ban. An article on its website calls out the move “to appease anti-hunting activists” and points to how such policies are not only detrimental to hunters and anglers but “are not in the best interest of evidence-based wildlife conservation.” This is why the NRA, NSSF and other hunter-backed organizations are calling for Congress to pass the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act.”
The Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act, H.R. 615, was introduced by Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman of Missouri. The measure bars the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture from prohibiting or regulating the use of lead ammunition or tackle on federal land or water that is under the jurisdiction of such departments and made available for hunting or fishing.
That legislation, along with the U.S. Senate’s companion legislation, S. 1185, also would require the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to provide site-specific peer-reviewed scientific data in cooperation with state agencies that demonstrates traditional lead ammunition or fishing tackle is causing detrimental wildlife population impacts before prohibiting their use by hunters and anglers. The fact that the science doesn’t support lead ammo bans, often advocated by anti-hunting groups, is where the main bone of contention lies for hunters and pro-hunting organizations.
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and field-trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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