In a move that has sparked an outcry from hunting groups and GOP lawmakers, the Biden administration has advanced a proposal to ban the use of lead ammunition and tackle in eight national wildlife refuges.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration (USFWS) announced the proposed rule, which targets seven specified national wildlife refuge areas where lead ammunition and tackle would be prohibited by 2026. An additional refuge will see a ban on lead ammunition, but not tackle.
The decision has been met with opposition from a number of quarters, with critics arguing that it will increase the cost for sportsmen and women, potentially leading to a decrease in outdoor activities and conservation funding.
“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.
According to the American Sportfishing Association, restrictions on lead fishing tackle should be based on sound science documenting that lead tackle impacts specific wildlife populations. They claim to have sought evidence from USFWS but have yet to receive it.
“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 Biden administration advances with its controversial restrictions, the hunting community awaits a resolution that balances environmental concerns with their interests.