Trump’s interior secretary reverses ban on lead ammo on national wildlife refuges as his first official act

By on March 3, 2017 with 69 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

So much for sober-minded consultation, careful study of the data, and thoughtful analysis from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and other experts on his staff. Before the chair in his office was even warm, and just after he dismounted from his horse, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke undid a director’s order to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle over the next five years on more than 150 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges and other agency lands and waterways. The nullified policy had a simple and good purpose: it was designed to stop the needless, incidental poisoning of millions of wild animals each year by lead that’s left behind in the routine pursuit of these field sports.

As the primary wildlife manager of tens of millions of acres of federal lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has a statutory duty to act to protect and conserve wildlife, and that’s what it did by establishing the policy after careful deliberation last year. What Zinke ignored is that less toxic forms of ammunition are field-tested, cost-competitive, and readily available in the marketplace. Leaders of hunting groups huddled around him for his first official action, cheering on an action inimical to the imperatives of conservation and wildlife enhancement.

The NRA and the same crowd of hunting lobbying groups stamped their feet a quarter century ago when George H.W. Bush’s Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl. President Bush, himself a hunter, showed his true commitment to conservation, even as detractors portended the demise of waterfowl sports.

History has proved them wrong – badly and unmistakably wrong. Waterfowl hunting has continued unabated, but just without the collateral poisoning of so many birds and other creatures.

And today, a quarter century later, there’s absolutely no compelling reason not to require hunters and anglers to switch to these alternative metals for their ammunition. Just like there’s no reason for oil companies to not use non-leaded gasoline or paint makers to keep lead out of their paint.

We’ve known for thousands of years that lead is a deadly toxin. The lingering effects of lead pipes still pose hazards for communities, as we’ve seen in the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the larger debate over crumbling infrastructure in the United States. Why wouldn’t we also move to get lead out of the wildlife management profession, especially now that there are ready alternatives available to every single hunter and angler? Why oppose it? And why make it your first official action?

In 2014, The HSUS and other wildlife groups joined with some rank-and-file sportsmen to petition the Department of the Interior to require the use of nontoxic ammunition when a firearm is discharged on federal lands managed by the National Park Service and the FWS.

Hunters and anglers deposit tens of thousands of tons of lead in our environment, and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million birds and other animals—including more than 130 species—die each year from lead poisoning. That’s a staggering toll, and an entirely preventable one, given our ability to manufacture better ammunition.

Scientists have called lead ammunition the “greatest, largely unregulated source of lead knowingly discharged into the environment in the United States.” Since it breaks into fragments upon impact, lead inevitably makes its way into the food chain as animals feed off carcasses left in the field by hunters. News stories continually emerge, including recently in Oregon and Pennsylvania, of dedicated, self-sacrificing wildlife rehabilitators struggling to treat predatory birds—including our own national symbol, the bald eagle—for acute lead poisoning. Hunting families are at risk too, since the meat from animals shot and cooked for the table can contain tiny lead shards. Children are especially vulnerable and even low levels of lead in their bodies can adversely impact their health for life. Why risk it?

Lead alternatives are readily available, and comparably priced copper and steel ammunition outperform lead and do not keep killing days, weeks, and months after leaving the gun. Ten years after the FWS required the use of non-lead shot for the hunting of waterfowl nationwide, researchers found significant improvements in the blood and bone lead levels in a variety of waterfowl species. The use of nontoxic shot reduced the mortality of mallards by 64 percent, and saved approximately 1.4 million ducks in a single fall flight.

Individual states, recognizing the negative impact of lead, are starting to act to remove lead sources from their forests, despite the anti-conservation bluster and threats of political retribution from the NRA. Last year, New Hampshire phased out the use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing less than one ounce in order to help protect loon populations in that state. In 2013, California became the first state in the nation to phase out the use of lead ammunition for the taking of all wildlife, with a deadline of 2019 for completing the transition.

Sport hunters – including Mr. Zinke — often cite the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. But too often they treat President Roosevelt and his commitment to conservation as a talking point or a historical artifact. They cast the idea of sacrifice and the common good as part of a scheme to erode their rights, and not as part of their duty to uphold the principles for which Roosevelt stood as a conservationist. Here is their test: you’ve got alternatives to lead and you know that lead kills wild animals by the millions. Show us that you treat conservation as a continuing commitment and not an abstraction or a word that you just discharge without any real meaning or force.

This is a very inauspicious start for Mr. Zinke, and it smacks of a political sop to the NRA. The nation’s wildlife and the health of our public lands depend on both his independence and tangible acts of policy that align with conservation-laden rhetoric.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Annoula Wylderich says:

    So true, so dangerous. According to a former Cleveland mayor who is also an investigative journalist and good friend of mine: “Lead and copper poisons every organ in our bodies. It’s affecting all our quality of life, and it’s robbing our children of their futures. It lowers the IQ in developing children and contributes to an infant mortality rate. It leads to emotionless violent behavior.” I had to read that last one again; maybe it explains the rash of violence among our youth. But these are good reasons, besides the inherent cruelty to animals, as to why we need to oppose the use of lead.

    • trevor says:

      You had better rip the copper pipes our of your house then because you are getting WAY more lead and copper from those copper pipes and the lead tin solder that holds them together than you will ever get from hunters using lead and copper plated lead shot for hunting.

      Most of us hunters realize that the move to steel shot for waterfowl was simply an attempt to put an end to waterfowl hunting. Of course it has had its intended result, there are not too many waterfowl hunters around anymore, which is why there is a huge overpopulation of Canada geese and they now have to poison them by the tens of thousands to keep them off of golf courses, and away from airports to avoid the situation that Captain Sully found himself in when the airbus he was flying ingested a flock of geese. I work on an Air Force base and every year they have the USDA come out and poison the geese to keep them away from the fighter jets. Occasionally the nutters from PETA get wind of it the the goose poisonings and they raise hell but the Pentagon mostly ignores them.

      • E.L. says:

        This post is not about the effects on people. Why does everything that is supposed to matter have to be just about the effects on humans? Have you ever seen a Loon die from injecting lead? Our Eagles die as well. I don’t know about you but besides their having a right to live on this earth, as much of a right as we do, I rather enjoy hearing loon calls and seeing Eagles flying once again.
        Fact: Life on this earth isn’t just about humans. The earth and animals could survive just fine without humans, but it isn’t the other way around. And unless we start taking some responsibility for the damage we cause, we can kiss our self-important rumps goodbye. I hunt and fish. The hunters and fishermen I know don’t use lead and it isn’t a big deal.

      • Jim M says:

        Lead was banned for waterfowl hunting because the lead was being ingested by bottom feeding ducks and other animals.
        Non-toxic Hevi-Shot is denser than lead and therefore more effective.

    • Alex says:

      Contesting the the data about the lead poisoning due to hunting. Click on the link.

  2. Sandy Smith says:

    OMG. Has the NRA just moved their bed into the White House and directing all the wildlife policies? I would have never believed so much would change for the worse, so quickly. Just let us know what to do… we will do it! I will rally every decent human being out there to fight these changes!

  3. Jacqueline Greene says:

    Looks like decision-making from spite. Can we heal from 4 years of this nonsense?

  4. Henrietta KOmras says:

    Good move boys; prove that you are a real man by shooting an unarmed innocent animal who did you no harm and call it a “sport” when it is really a god old boy with a small penis trying to prove his manhood and oh yes might as well do some good ol pollutin of the atmosphere since nobody matters except me and my guns and my right to shoot anything that moves so I can prove I am a man’s man
    yup and the hell with air pollution and the environment and future generations
    yay ya for the NRA
    wow; this is real evolution in the works, folks
    men will be men
    and mostly are violent babies
    but what the hell
    it is a free country
    to shot and kill animals
    wow ee zowie

    yay Trump
    one of the good old boys proving that we don’t give a damn bout anything except ourselves and our right to the Wild West shoot em ups
    good times
    for the good old biy netwek

    • Laurie says:

      Wow, you nailed it!!! The NRA and Safari Club International is there to inflate the egos of those deficient mean-spirited little twits with their right to shoot and kill.

    • Roberta Bush-Taylor says:

      I did not see one sentence in defense of The POTUS action in this article.

      There has to be some reason for this reversal. Could it be enforcement of this “law” is impossible and costly?
      Could it be better managed by educating the “sportsmen”?

      • Cynthia Hufford says:

        Frump listens to his idiot son on wildlife. I’ve read more than 1 post about lead poisoning of birds of prey ducks, fish. U name it. There is no defense of frump. He doesnt realise that th gut feeling he has is gas and shld b ignored and he shld listen to scientists not idiots.

  5. Angela Grammatico says:

    This is horrible and must stop immediately what an evil man to do such a thing

  6. Angela Grammatico says:

    This is horrible and must stop now what an ignorant man to allow such a thing

  7. Peggy Ellison says:

    The NRA with full support of the GOP , led by LD Trump and all his LDS, are sending this country back to the dark ages. The “Swamp” is growing. What a group!!!

  8. Doreen Pryor says:

    What do you expect from a man whose sons go hunting?!!

  9. Patricia De Herrera says:

    We humans never learn do we???? We just keep putting our health, our animals and our environment at risk. We will never change our desire to “want more” and “take more”, no matter the cost. It’s a terribly sad thing when we place money and our own self interests above that of saving our precious world.

  10. sharonsj says:

    Trump and the Republicans really do not care about the fate of the planet. I hope you folks have health insurance and a really “yuge” stash of prepper food.

  11. Ann Isik says:

    WHY has he done this?

  12. ady says:

    WTF is wrong with these people.

  13. donna McKnight says:

    What can we do..this is horrible

  14. Richard Stafford says:

    Thank you for informing us. What action can we take? To whom should we write to rescind this action? In other words, what can be done.
    Thank you.

  15. AVIS HOLT says:

    WHY would Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke under President Trump reverse something that would help wildlife and the environment??? That is HORRIBLE! I hope and pray President Trump intervenes and puts it right. How can we bring this to his attention?

  16. Ken Tetzel says:

    As an avid waterfowl hunter, I couldn’t agree more. I don’t understand why the hunting groups would support bringing back lead shot. It’s shameful. The NRA and that ugly group of idiots……..they don’t surprise me at all.

    • trevor says:

      You clearly have tried to hunt waterfowl with steel shot. That stuff is a joke and has been ever since they forced it on us.

      • Jeri J Simmons says:

        ah… so you do not care about the environment, and do not care that children will be brain damaged by your use of lead ammunition… You don’t have children of your own and don’t care about anyone else’s children?

        Lead ammunition was banned in 1991, for good reasons.

  17. Kay Hall says:

    No! This is not good….presidentTrump do usupportthis???

  18. Robin Lovell says:

    This is why I don’t want grandchildren. What’s the point?
    I want wildlife. I’m for protecting every living thing on our great mother earth. Otherwise what’s the point of living?

  19. Neville Wells says:

    Donald Trump does not look like an animal lover to us.

  20. Giuilana Rinaldo says:

    It’s so sad how archaic minded the Trump administration is. They don’t even seem open to compromise with respect to the welfare of wildlife and animals. The world belongs to all species, not just humans. You try surviving on a planet with no animals or insects with a natural ecosystem and see how you like it – you ultimately cannot control the laws of nature with a man made ecosystem and expect everything to function normal.

    For every action, there’s a reaction and not respecting wildlife and animals has serious long term consequences on wildlife, animals in general, the environment, and of course the welfare of human who inhabit our earth. It’s 2017 – not 1917 or 1817!

    We all collectively, including our government administration, need to work on eliminating all the senseless, needless, greedy, cruel, and systematic suffering in the world. We are already overwhelmed with suffering from natural disasters, accidents, and arbitrary abuses, as it is. So, let’s all work on paying if forward by protecting the welfare for the most vulnerable of our society, which includes wildlife, farm animals, marine mammals, and of course, pets.

  21. collin ross says:

    Please, please, learn the facts about lead… Lead metal or metallic lead, as used in bullets, shot and sinkers is very low risk. It’s the lead compounds that are bad. Just as in Rome, the lead pipes used in Flint posed no risk until the water supply became acidic. The studies concerning saved waterfowl are optimistic projections and have never been proven. What has been proven is the massive increase of waterfowl death from crippling, because non-toxic shot is not effective. Worse yet, tungsten is used in most non-toxic shot and it far more dangerous than lead. The backers of the recent lead ban in CA admitted that it was about banning hunting not lead exposure. Consider that in Argentina dove are shot with lead by the thousands every day. So much so, that many birds feed only on injured and dead dove, yet these birds are not dropping dead. The real lead issue is lead salts or compounds. Some of the most contaminated areas in the US are 50 feet off the side of any major freeway, from gasoline, even years since its use. Wonder why birds and animals that eat roadkill show high lead levels?

  22. Damon says:

    I am a advid Hunter steel shot and other lead alternatives have crippled more ducks and caused more useless deaths of waterfowl lead shot kills quickly and humanely and steel shot is expensive for working class my family eats all the wildlife we take in the wild hunters spend more money to save wildlife than anyone group

  23. Anna Rice says:

    This ridiculous action makes me really angry. I am an animal lover and a nurse, and this is heartbreaking. It is such a sad commentary on how low mindedand corrupt the people in Donald Trump’s administration are. It is bad enough that people hunt innocent beautiful animals and now they want to put a toxic metal into the environment that will slowly kill millions more of our beautiful innocent wildlife, and possibly poison families who eat the meat. What in the world are you thinking, Secretary Zinke??
    Is profit to the NRA all you care about? Well, you will have the blood of millions and millions of innocent animals and fowl on your hands. Please reconsider the consequences and reverse this unconscionable act.

  24. Jennifer Gooding says:

    So, what can we do other than be upset? What is the action item here? Who do we call?

  25. Mark Pokras says:

    As a veterinarian, I have seen thousands of animals poisoned by metallic lead over more than 40 years…from bullet fragments in cadavers and gutpiles, from lead fishing weights, from shotgun pellets used for hunting, skeet and trap shooting, from wheel weight fragments that mix with roadside grit and are eaten by birds, from chimney flashing that’s gnawed on by squirrels, in cattle that are exposed to old tractor batteries, in pets and livestock (including chickens & turkeys) that eat old paint chips. The list goes on and on. We need to find non-toxic alternatives for nearly ALL products containing lead.
    If you have friends or family who shoot (even targets, skeet, etc), hunt or fish, encourage them to adopt the use of non-toxic products. Some sites that contain helpful information include:

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you Mark for sharing this fantastic list of resources.

    • Valerie Lynn says:

      Thank you very much for these helpful links. I have quite a few hunters in my family; no matter how much I despise what they do, it’s still their choice.
      I became a Vet Tech in 2003, but I can no longer pursue my passion for animals as I had hoped; I have a severe back injury, therefore I can no longer do any heavy lifting, or be on my feet for long periods.
      I wanted to continue on to Vet school, but things didn’t work out in my favor. Ironically, now my daughter has the same fire & passion I do for animals and she is a complete natural with them. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that she’s been around a variety of animals since the day she was born! Even feral animals seem to be calm for her, which is just awesome!
      Sorry, didn’t mean to tell ya my life story. Just wanted to relate some Vet stories.

  26. Stefani Mish says:

    Sad day that this was reversed. We need to insure the safety of our environment and the Animals

  27. Michelle Brown says:

    Ive signed all the petitions I can against this and the other attacks on our planet and its creatures. Should I call the NRA? i just want to do more, and I can’t afford to donate more than I already do.

  28. Beverly E. Bedard says:

    Beverly Bedard– I wish I was rich so I could donate to many causes. Most men are child/like, it takes a real man to appreciate the softer side of life, like caring for animals, people, flowers, parks. To live in harmony and not destroy. I wonder what my granddaughters/plus this and future generations will have to enjoy if we cannot win on protecting what we love and want in our lives now and in the future.

  29. L.D.Zafar says:

    NRA: “Not Right for America!” Even though my phone # is unlisted some Marlboro sounding man calls today representing NRA,an organization I detest soliciting when I did not initiate it. Really? Do you not also know what a “do not call list” is or has too much lead affected you as well? Stop killing defenseless animals for sport! I understand if you are in the wild and must feed your families, and there is no Publix, but just to prove skill or sport, find something less violent to other creatures that have as much right to live as any of you morons and find something that shows real skill, like martial arts which is also much more manly, then trying to show that through a long weapon!

  30. Margie says:

    IT will be a GREAT DAY when the goverment stop people hurting Horses and let the Wolves be safe in there home land and people have right to live safe in their Homeland , every person and animal deserve that RIGHT .

  31. Sue Canale says:

    Very sad that our president is such a pawn of the NRA..
    No integrity,must really hate our wildlife and environment .”
    Please don’t let this ineffective President win..

  32. Sue Canale says:

    Pretty sad,especially my comments..
    We have so many political decisions now,that make no sense…
    I have to blame this decision on the NRA..

  33. Iris Owens says:

    What do you expect from a man whose sons kill endangered species such as a tiger and hold up part of an elephant’s trunk. I guess this is what the “big boys” do!!!!!!!

  34. Kurt Gasbarra says:

    Take Heart all…an enlightened
    Citizenry can take positive Actions. Join with Wildlife advocates like ” Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife or
    any other. ” Each day I do…
    I hold my Congressional representatives accountable @
    their voting-record! After all,
    my vote during elections will
    determine their political-fate.
    Amen to That…

  35. Maggy Butler says:

    January 20 was a very sad day, and nothing has improved since. The new administration and his cohort is definitivelly set on doing everything to set us back 50 years in time. Everything that we gained for animals and wildlife welfare is getting revoked. Back to lead amunitions that has caused so much damage. The EPA is getting neutered, the National Park money is getting cut down so much, that we will be lucky if we do not end up with devastating fires this summer. Our Public lands is getting assaulted for oil, gas and mining without regard for the wishes of the peoples. Make a few fast bucks for the oil companies without regard to the polution they create, and how bad it is for the environment as long as some billionaires line their pockets. Why cannot they spend their time and energy to do something good, like investing in renewable energy? What will it takes for the new administration to see what they are doing to the country? We had come so far and can we live going backward like this?

  36. Ken says:

    Here goes………I am a bird hunter! Have been since I was a kid. Family thing. I eat EVERYTHING I kill, like most of the posters to this board, who eat the various meats and poultry processed every day in our country. I’m not an NRA member and never have and never will join their cult; did not vote for Trump, yuk; don’t believe in trophy hunting; my penis is not too small also; I do support the lead ban in ALL ammunition and have been shooting steel loads in my ammunition for a long time. To other hunters out there; please refuse the lead and if you hunt correctly, you won’t need lead. More importantly, how do we get rid of the zinc……….I mean Zinke!!


  37. JZ says:

    Agreed, where is the Call to Action button here? Other than being upset, what can we tangibly do??

  38. tom lilly says:

    I live where there are eagles and a lot of duck and gose hunting..I rembember the old days when lead shot was legal.. on opening day of goose season in Dorchester County you would see a lot of geese with broken wings etc that had been shot at when they were not in killing range , what happens next is that the foxes , hawks and eagles feed on the cripples when they die and thats where the lead poisoning starts . Studies ( false of course ! ) have consistently proved that the near extinction of the California condor was caused when the condors fed on caribou that had been crippled whos bodies contained lead bullet fragments. The Condors are coming back since lead bullets were banned. Somehow this action allowing lead has to be stopped…but how ?

  39. Russ hearn says:

    Hi USA, Finally a person in power who doesn’t bow down to pressure from stupid animal rights fools. These people have never hunted in their life but are all total experts in their minds. I’m a duck hunter in New Zealand our silly rulers have gone to steel as well ( the main excuse is cause they did it in the US and the rest is guess work based on dubious science!) I was out last night shooting ducks with steel , long story short one duck I shot at and thought I’d missed suddenly fell from the sky 300-400 meters away , how many other ducks have I missed that flew away only to die a wasted death? Steel shot sucks and I won’t be buying a license next year! So I suppose the animal libers have won! Or have they? There may be a light at the end of the tale after all!
    PS sorry about the” Americas Cup”

    • Gene Whelchel says:

      Agree my NZ friend, have had that happen more times than I want to admit. Wasting a animal is senseless, but your “hug a tree nuts ” don’t hunt so what do they know and lets face it ” Science can be tilted any way one wants it” pay a person enough money they’d tell you anything you want to hear . I use common sense, which some ” highly educated idiots” have none. Its a agenda a agenda to slow or stop hunting nothing more, but the enviro’s are losing and loosing big, about time we had sensible leaders not activists lining their pockets and running a muck telling others how grant their world is.

  40. Gene Whelchel says:

    As a avid hunter a a conversationalist and Montanan , Zinke did the right thing. Special interest groups i.e. PETA, and other radical anti hunting groups for years have tried to under mind hunting. Zinke a Montanan and hunter understands this, to those that oppose lead let me say this, lead is a natural mineral, produced by the earth, it has been around before man and man has lived around lead for centuries and we are still on the planet. Enviro’s always see the doom and gloom in everything, but they also enjoy every comfort of life, meaning lead is in solder in their cell phones, computers they still use them and lead is in their homes to secure copper water lines and drains, people are not ” Dropping like flies” from it. Man will survive people we survive plagues, wars, drought, floods, and our own stupidity, so there you go.

  41. KB says:

    So where is the proof here?? Injecting birds with lead is not proof. I highly doubt “tens of thousands” of birds die each year due to lead. Another useless left hand typist law that just got (pun intended) SHOT DOWN, and rightfully so. So tell me, was it lead shot that was used when this stupid law was taken out behind the barn and shot?

  42. Ron Braithwaite says:

    The original study that resulted in the lead shot ban has a lot of problems. The only ducks that the researchers were able to poison were mallard ducks fed a diet or hard corn. For ‘grit’ they were given ONLY lead pellets. So these ducks had a diet of corn and lead shot only. Other efforts to poison ducks by placing lead shot in the bottom of ponds, lakes and on hard surfaces all failed to kill a single duck.

    Therefore, let me make a modest proposal. Let’s do a large, carefully controlled, double-blinded study on the effects of lead shot on various species of waterfowl under various NATURAL conditions. Let the study results be subject to criticism from all sides. Also, know that neither ducks nor man are poisoned by lead embedded in their bodies. We have millions of war casualties–with bullets and fragments of lead embedded in their bodies–to witness the truth of this. I’m one of them myself and have a body full of lead fragments going back now 40 years. No lead poisoning yet. I’m not even anemic.

    Also, nobody, including birds, are poisoned by swallowing one or two lead bullets or pellets. Lead, itself, is not poisonous. The various soluble and digestible lead salts and chlorides are. Some birds with powerful gizzards are at risk because they pick up hard grit–usually gravel–that gradually grinds lead, and its oxides, down over a period of weeks, months or years. I’ve looked at hundreds of duck gizzards and have found lead pellet [7] in only one of these, a widgeon. The bird was banded and was ancient as ducks go. It was banded 8 years earlier and was flying strong when it was shot. A post mortem revealed a perfectly normal duck that was moderately fat–for a widgeon.

    Birds of prey have relatively weak gizzards because they eat soft meat so are at little danger of lead poisoning. Likewise, humans, who have no gizzards whatsoever, can swallow a lead pellet -s] or bullet [s] with very little chance of poisoning.

  43. Matt says:

    I’m all for nontoxic shot, but lets not throw out false information to support our stance. Steel absolutely, positively, does not even come close to the performance of lead when it comes to killing power on waterfowl. I’m not arguing that we should go back to lead shot, but I hate it when a party provides false information to push their agenda. Fortunately there are other nontoxic options out there that perform better than steel, such as bismuth and tungsten.

  44. Patrick Wilson says:

    Having extensive waterfowl hunting experience in the middle of the central flyway, I can guarantee that more waterfowl die inhumanly from steel shot than ever died from lead poisoning. Watching birds get hit with steel, a cloud of feathers, and then fly off to die has convinced me steel shot is evil. However, nobody has bothered to spend enough time in the field to study this. I’m sure the coyotes like all those free meals though….

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