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Lead Ban Chronicles – Lead Levels Down In AZ and UT Condors

March 20, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesBeen a little while since I did a Lead Ban Chronicles. As I’ve said before, it’s not because there’s nothing going on… only that there’s been very little new going on.

In general, the campaign to vilify hunters and demonize lead ammo is still underway as evidenced by ongoing editorials and columns (some posing as “articles”) around the country.  It’s still the same misinformation and implications (lead ammo is “wiping out” birds”), and supported by the same tired arguments (it’s easy to switch from lead to lead-free ammo).  And then there’s the unfortunate, counter-arguments that are too often weighed down by weak or misdirected rhetoric (there’s no “proof”… this is a “gun grab”).  The resulting mistrust and general signal-to-noise-ratio turns the whole thing into a net loss, particularly for folks like myself who’d like to see an honest, but positive, discussion with some realistic and balanced outcomes.

One of the things that I have supported all along is an effort to increase voluntary adoption of lead free ammo through education.  I honestly believe that many hunters (Most?  I dunno.), when provided with the facts about lead’s impact on scavenging birds and the truth about lead free ammo performance will make the change… if they can, A.) afford it, and B.) find it.  Aside from the myths and misinformation and the handful of guns that simply don’t like copper bullets, cost and availability continue to be the biggest sticking points to a wider acceptance of lead-free ammo.

I also believe that legislating a ban, as CA has done, only deepens the distrust and resistance from hunters.  (The credibility gap between CA sportsmen and the Fish and Wildlife Commission is already stretched pretty wide… in most cases, rightfully so.)  On the other hand, Arizona and Utah have adopted a more productive, “let’s work together” approach and encourage voluntary use of lead-free ammo… even to the point of giving it away to hunters in specific areas.  What’s more is that AZ (I don’t know about UT) also provided incentives for hunters who are using lead to bring out and properly dispose of carcasses and gut piles, which mitigated the amount of lead-laced carrion in the field.

The results?

Well, this definitely doesn’t imply a valid, cause-and-effect relationship, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen several articles about the decline in lead toxicity among condors in AZ and UT.  We’re not talking little drops either, but a significant change.  According to one article, published in the Grand Canyon News, only about 16% of trapped condors showed “extreme exposure” to lead.  That’s still not perfect, but it’s a big step from the 42% showing lead toxicity the previous year.  Of course, it will take several more years to establish any real trends, or to know if this is simply an anomalous year or if the reduced amount of hunters’ lead in the environment really is making a difference.  Considering that lead levels appeared to be higher in CA since the lead ban was instituted in the “Condor Zone”, there could certainly be other factors at work.  Time will tell.

But it’s promising, and like some of the folks from the various condor projects, I choose to be heartened by the news.  If AZ and UT can demonstrate that voluntary compliance, along with other mitigation efforts (removing carrion) are as effective as legislated ammo bans, we could be on the right road to reducing the impacts of lead ammo across the country without creating new laws and more barriers to sportsmen and gun owners.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – Lead Levels Down In AZ and UT Condors”

  1. Joshua Stark on March 24th, 2014 15:17

    That is great news. Thanks for the update, Phillip!

  2. Phillip on March 26th, 2014 08:50

    It is promising news, Josh. I hope it marks a positive trend.

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