Lead Ban Chronicles – Paper Discusses Alternatives To Banning Lead Ammo
November 18, 2014
I spend a good bit of time (probably too much) reading various articles, columns, and blog posts about lead ammunition. I spend even more time responding to them, generally in a vain attempt to interject reason, fact, and common sense into the discussion.
It’s an unfortunate reality that, in lieu of actual knowledge or research, far too many journalists and writers have chosen to fall back on single-source information… and for the most part, at least in the mainstream media, that information is propagated either by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) or the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). As a result, the information is highly biased and driven by extremist agendas.
Of course, there’s plenty coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, such as the NRA (and its shadows) . An awful lot of that is also riddled with misleading inaccuracies, and it’s also designed to push an agenda. But for the most part, that information doesn’t get the attention of mainstream editors. It shows up instead in the hook-n-bullet media, and most of that is Internet based. It is hard not to notice that most of the major outdoors magazines and hunting television programs have steered well clear of the whole topic, except in specific cases where it makes real news (such as California’s legislation).
But I digress. Most of the lead ammo articles and columns you see in the mainstream media are heavily influenced by “press releases” and “papers” distributed by the environmental and animal rights extremes. You need only read a few articles and columns to start to recognize the striking similarities, redundant talking points, and even specific wording.
With that in mind, I also recognize that many of the voices that echo these “information sources” are pretty well-meaning. I think it reflects poorly on the state of journalism in general right now, but I can’t say that many of the reporters and columnists out there are necessarily “out to get” hunters simply by virtue of swallowing and regurgitating bad information. (Sure, some certainly are anti-hunters, but I don’t think it’s a majority.) For that matter, I think that a lot of the people who support a ban on lead ammo aren’t necessarily anti-hunters. It’s just that they value the objects of their passion (e.g. condors and raptors) more than they value the objects of ours (hunting and fishing). I also think that a general ignorance about hunting, guns, and ammo, makes these folks more susceptible to the argument that the “dangers” of lead ammo can be easily addressed by simply banning lead outright… or that such a ban really wouldn’t have much of an impact on hunters and shooters.
So when I go out there to fight for truth and justice (but never while wearing my best trousers), I try to educate as well as influence the readers. I call out the myths and misinformation from all quarters, and make an effort to set it right with objective fact. Or at least, the facts as I understand them. Information can evolve, and due to ongoing research, what I currently recognize as “fact” may, indeed, change. I’m open to that possibility.
One thing that I’ve pushed on, over and over, is that there are many ways to mitigate the potential dangers of lead ammo. Replacing lead bullets is certainly one very obvious method, but it’s hardly the only way to go. I’ve described everything from burying or removing gut piles and carcasses, to selecting less frangible bullet types. For those concerned with human health risks, studies in Minnesota have shown that proper meat care and careful preparation can reduce that risk to almost nil. Etc.
I’ve also argued that, if protection and conservation of scavenger birds and raptors is the desired outcome, organizations like Audubon, CBD, and HSUS should be working hard to disseminate all of these various solutions instead of running the conversation into a brick wall by focusing narrowly on banning lead ammo. Unfortunately, even the more scholarly papers on the subject tend to focus only on replacing the projectiles rather than finding other ways to protect wildlife. Columnists, reporters, and editors… even those with a pro-hunting bent… seldom mention these mitigation strategies.
Imagine, then, the smile on my face when I saw this paper from the Oregon State University.
The review of scientific studies, conducted by biologists from several different institutions and agencies, was published in the July edition of the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. A companion perspective article, written by Clinton Epps, an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, examines the challenges of transitioning to non-lead ammunition.
In their papers, the researchers do not call for any policy changes, but they outline some of the challenges of reducing the use of lead and explore tactics that have been used to reduce lead exposure.
The review outlines some steps to reduce lead exposure to birds, including redistributing shot in the surface soil by cultivating sediments; raising water levels in wetlands to reduce access by feeding birds; and providing alternative uncontaminated food sources.
“Managers have found a number of ways to reduce the risk of lead exposure to birds while preserving the important role hunting plays in wildlife conservation,” Haig said.
One example cited involved Arizona Game and Fish working with other groups in that state on a voluntary approach to the issue.
“They formed a coalition to educate hunters about the negative effects of lead,” Haig pointed out. “The result was more than 80 percent compliance with voluntary non-lead ammunition use among hunters on the Kaibab Plateau and no birds were found with lead poisoning the following year.”
This is the kind of thing I think we should be seeing, along with factual and practical (not hypothetical) information about the impacts of lead ammo on non-target species. I would hope more media outlets pick up on this, and let’s turn this conversation into something productive.
In other, related news, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission rejected a petition to ban lead ammunition in the Centennial State. While the obvious, primary reason the petition was rejected was that there were only 53 actual signatures and four letters of support (the 10,000 signatures collected online were not eligible for consideration, as the majority of them were from outside of Colorado), I also think the political ramifications of moving forward with the proposal would have been devastating. After threatened (and to some extent, actual) boycotts by hunters in response to restrictive firearms legislation in 2012, I think Colorado officials recognize the danger of pissing them off again… especially with an ammo ban that has no valid justification.
This does look like a good opportunity for CO P&W to expand education and outreach about lead ammo. When provided with the unbiased facts, many hunters will make the personal choice to take action to mitigate potential harm. That, to me, seems like a positive outcome.