The plan put forward by the Biden administration to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and tackle in eight national wildlife refuges has been met with outrage from hunting groups and Republican politicians.
The proposed rule, which would ban the use of lead ammunition and tackle in seven national wildlife refuge areas by 2026, was announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Lead ammunition will be prohibited from another sanctuary, although tackle will still be allowed.
Many people are unhappy with the decision because they fear it would discourage people from participating in outdoor activities and reduce funds for conservation.
“Outdoorsmen and women are excellent stewards of the environment and participate in activities that seek to benefit the health of wild game species,” stated the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee pointed out that hunting and fishing activities generate billions in conservation funding annually. Increased costs could result in a significant decrease in participation and subsequently, conservation funding.
American Sportfishing Association members believe that regulations on lead fishing equipment should be supported by evidence showing that such gear has a negative effect on certain populations of wildlife. They say they contacted USFWS for proof but haven’t gotten a response.
“This is the latest example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service creating rules that punish hunters, threaten conservation funding and advance special interests without sound scientific evidence that traditional lead ammunition cause is causing detrimental wildlife population impacts,” the senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation said.
“Some of my earliest memories are of hunting and fishing across Arkansas, and I know millions of Americans share similar stories,” Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) said in a statement in response. “Access to these lands and waters is a pivotal part of everyday life. Clearly, the Biden administration feels differently. We just passed a bill out of committee yesterday that would continue allowing traditional ammunition and tackle to be used on federal lands, and now the USFWS is attempting to create blanket bans in several states.”
“The cost of alternative forms of ammunition and tackle is multiple times higher than traditional lead. As this proposed rule brings an increase in cost for sportsmen and women, we can inevitably expect a decrease in the number of individuals who can afford to enjoy the outdoors. Hunters and anglers are without question the Americans with the greatest interest in conservation and they contribute millions of dollars to conservation efforts each year. I will continue to work on Capitol Hill to protect their access to our nation’s lands and waters.”
Republican lawmakers and hunting groups have called on Congress to swiftly pass the “Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act of 2023” (H.R. 615). This legislation, which received bipartisan support and was reported favorably out of committee on June 21, 2023, would require any proposed lead ban at a National Wildlife Refuge to be compatible with state law and based on scientific evidence related to the specific refuge.
As the controversial limits put forth by the Biden administration move forward, the hunting community hopes for a solution that strikes a compromise between environmental concerns and their interests.