National Park Service Ban on Lead Ammo, Fishing Gear Draws Ire of Shooting Sports Foundation

Not everyone is happy with the National Park Service's ban on lead ammunition and fishing gear.

What seemed to be a fairly innocuous announcement, that the National Park Service was banning lead ammunition and fishing gear throughout the National Park System, has drawn the ire of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The announcement Tuesday by the Park Service will have relatively little impact on hunters, as most national park units ban hunting. But that didn't stop the hunting group from quickly criticizing the decision.

"The National Park Service's decision is arbitrary, over-reactive and not based on science," Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, said Wednesday. "Studies show that traditional ammunition does not pose a health risk to humans, or wildlife populations as a whole."

In Washington, the Park Service's acting director, Dan Wenk, said the desire to reduce lead in national park environments led to the ban.

“Our goal is to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in parks by the end of 2010,” said Mr. Wenk. “We want to take a leadership role in removing lead from the environment.”

According to a Park Service release, "the new lead reduction efforts also include changes in NPS activities, such as culling operations or the dispatching of wounded or sick animals. Rangers and resource managers will use non-lead ammunition to prevent environmental contamination as well as lead poisoning of scavenger species who may eventually feed upon the carcass. Non-toxic substitutes for lead made in the United States are now widely available including tungsten, copper, and steel."

Mr. Wenk also said the agency would develop educational materials to increase awareness about the consequences of lead exposure and the benefits of using lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle.

Lead is an environmental contaminant affecting many areas of the world, including the national parks, the acting director said. Lead already is banned in gasoline, children’s toys, and paint because of its effects on human health. In the United States, there is an accelerating trend to expand efforts to reduce lead contamination associated with firearms and hunting, he added.

California and Arizona have recently implemented mandatory and voluntary bans, respectively, on lead ammunition to facilitate California condor recovery. And Yellowstone National Park has had restrictions on lead fishing tackle for years to protect native species and their habitats.

Back at the shooting sports foundation, officials questioned whether the Park Service had made its decision to ban lead blindly, saying the agency "appears to have made its decision without requesting input from wildlife management and conservation groups, or ammunition manufacturers."

"There is no evidence of traditional ammunition harming humans or wildlife populations that would warrant this kind of drastic policy change," said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.

The shooting organization added that traditional lead ammunition is "best suited" for dispatching wounded or sick animals or for culling operations. Lead ammunition costs less than the alternatives, the group said, and hunters are more familiar with its performance.

"Hunters also are agreeable to taking voluntary measures, such as burying entrails after field dressing game, to prevent scavengers from ingesting lead fragments," the group's editorial said.

Furthermore, the group said that:

Ammunition containing lead components has been the choice of hunters for well over 100 years, during which time wildlife populations in America have surged. While lead ingestion appears to occur in a small number of individual animals, overall populations are unaffected. Also, there has never been a documented case of lead poisoning among humans who have eaten game taken with traditional ammunition, and a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on North Dakota hunters who consumed game confirmed that there was no reason for concern over eating game taken with traditional ammunition.

Unfortunately, the park service's decision to ban traditional ammunition adds to the misinformation being circulated by anti-hunting groups to promote fear among wildlife managers and hunters about traditional ammunition. The park service's news release
makes erroneous comparisons between organic lead found in gasoline and the metallic lead used in ammunition. Banning lead in gasoline and paint was related to public health concerns because of the widespread nature of these substances and ingestion of paint chips by young children. These issues are not associated with lead in ammunition.

But at the Park Service, Acting-Director Wenks said the ban will benefit wildlife, humans, and the environment without harming hunters.

“The reduction and eventual removal of lead on Park Service lands will benefit humans, wildlife, and ecosystems inside and outside park boundaries and continue our legacy of resource stewardship,” he said.


Get over it, NSSF. It's a new day, a new administration, and science is back on the table.
Perhaps the lead present in the entrails of culled animals is minimal, but it's still there. It's toxic, and it will build up over time, perhaps hundreds of years, to present a risk. Why wait until it's an "issue"?
Bravo NPS.

If we spent one dime on researching the environmental impact bullets or sinkers cause in our National Parks then we have too much money!!!...and as we all know, the country does not have money for stuff like this. This is the most ridiculous policy a bureaucrat could think of. Eliminating lead caused by bullets or sinkers in NP's will not enhance or clean the environment. This is not science...this is politics and we all know who they are firing bullets at (hopefully not lead). Next we will will be eliminating camping because of the methane it produces will harm the environment...maybe there should be an environmental impact study on Capitol Hill...I'll bet the methane produced there would be "off the charts".

The vast majority of losses to the Californian Condors in Pinnacles National Monument, California is due to lead poisoning. Hunters in the vicinity of the park shoot game but don't recover it or leave parts of the carcasses in the wild. It is not enough to ban lead ammo from the parks, it should be phased out everywhere.

In many states it is a law that you have to wear a seat belt while driving. If I don't who am I harming other than myself? I'm not a public safty hazard, and I don't think it's anyone's business if I wear one. How do laws like that get started? There is usually a larger motivation, like financial gain by certain interests, than just keeping "me" safe and I think the lead ban falls in that category.

The buzzards at the Pinnacles National Momument have to be trapped every two years (at taxpayers expense) and have their stomachs pumped becauce they eat anything and everything. and that's why they are nearly extinct. I live in Hollister, don't hunt anymore, would like to, copper bullets are a joke, game run off to die. Lead is a poison .... agreeded. Why can't people just come out and say ban guns and be done with it? Hypocrites! Kurt don't let the subject die. I've got five guns that I cannot legally fire where I live. They are locked in a gun safe in an alarmed house. Pretty much sucks. Can't wait to get out of the Kommunist Repiblik of Kalifornia.

There is some good research to support this action. Here are a few highlights:

1. A study led by environmental toxicologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz confirmed that bullet fragments and shotgun pellets in the carcasses of animals killed by hunters are the principal sources of lead poisoning in California condors. The researchers used a "fingerprinting" technique based on the unique isotope ratios found in different sources of lead to match the lead in blood samples from condors to the lead in ammunition, as distinguished from other sources of lead. You can read the full article here:

2. A conference on the effects of lead ammunition on wildlife and humans was held at Boise State University in 2008. You can download the abstract of the proceedings here: Here are a few highlights:

At least 2377 trumpeter and tundra swans have died in northwestern Washington and southwestern British Columbia from 1999-2007. Most (78%) of the fatalities were attributed to ingestion of lead shot.

Studies have found lead in the blood of 97% Bald Eagles and 85% of Golden Eagles captured as spring migrants in Montana during 1985-1993; they implicated lead bullet fragments in ground squirrel carcasses as one source.

Lead poisoning by shot or bullet ingestion has been described in 12 species of birds of prey in Europe, some of which are near threatened, e.g., the white-tailed eagle or endangered, i.e., the Spanish imperial eagle.

Ingested lead shotgun pellets and rifle bullet fragments have been shown to be an important source of lead poisoning in raptors, avian scavengers, water birds, and even seed-eating birds.

Mourning doves confuse shotgun pellets for grit and grain around hunted stock ponds and accordingly die in large numbers.

3. In 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned lead ammo in waterfowl hunting — that of ducks and other birds that live on water — which, according to a FWS spokesperson, led to an estimated 64% reduction of lead poisoning in ducks on certain parts of the Mississippi.

So.... what's the objection to a requirement that hunters shift to other types of ammo that don't contribute to the lead problem? Alternatives to lead ammo are more expensive, and some hunters claim they are not as accurate or "lack the destructive power to humanely kill the target animal," although some presenters at the Boise conference mentioned above refuted that argument.

There's also a political component. Google this issue and you'll soon find some passionate discussion about yet another attempt to limit the rights of hunters.

My personal take? Given the basic mandate of the NPS, I'd say the agency is correct to err on the side of caution. There's enough evidence on the potential harm of lead to wildlife and even to humans to support this action in NPS areas. When it comes to the risks posed by lead shot in the natural environment of national parks, there's more than enough data to suggest the presence of a literal smoking gun—and it fired lead ammo.

Hunter's seem to have adapted to the 1991 ban on lead ammo for waterfowl hunting; they can adapt to this one as well.

I may be opening a can of worms here, but, how will this translate to the carrying a concealed weapon in Nat. Parks? Will everyone who carries have to switch to ammo other than lead? What would happen if they were caught with lead ammo in a concealed weapon in a Nat. Park? Just feul for thought, have at it.

That's certainly an obvious and tempting question, Eric....which is why I didn't bring it up in the original post;-) Maybe it's a backdoor way to conduct weapons checks in the parks and ban those with lead, or at least remove the bullets!

People, remember here that the NPS said that IT was going lead-free. It did not say that in areas where hunting is legal that visitors would have to go lead-free. Let's not over read this thing.

Rick Smith

It seems to me that whenever natural resource science "threatens" the gun-owners they start talking about hidden agendas. Why are they all such spoiled brats about everything?

And they wonder why non gun-owners seem to perceive them as seperationist gun nuts....

"I'd say the agency is correct to err on the side of caution." That is the problem right there. If we are going to do that, than all vehicle's should be banned from National parks. We don't know how much oil and anti freeze is leaking from vehicle's as they drive through or sit in a parking spot or camp ground, but we do know it happens. So let's error on the side of caution. That's where we are going with this. Has anyone ever studied the effects of chewing gum on wildlife in the park? I would guess there is more of it left by visitors in the parks than lead.

I like levity as much as the next guy, Mark, but when you equate a very toxic substance like lead to chewing gum, well, that's just not the least bit funny.

While Mark's remark about gum is flippant, he has a valid point about automobiles.

Indeed, if "the agency is correct to err on the side of caution" as Mr. Burnett claims, why has it not done so when it comes to allowing automobile traffic in national parks? As I've stated elsewhere, automobiles have been shown to kill millions of animals a year and present a much higher risk to wildlife in parks than either concealed weapons or lead bullets.

If the NPS ban things like guns and lead ammo in the name of wildlife protection, why won't it ban cars?

Why won't the editors of and contributors to NPT acknowledge the automobile's deleterious effect on wildlife?

@Frank C. - But the detrimental effect of cars is well accepted and therefore each and every change in the existing road systems needs a full blown EIS (environmental impact study). Denali NP in Alaska is having a long term study project about a second connection to Wonder Lake and including an option of a new road (that would not be paved and only used by park busses) - but besides that, I am not aware of any plans for new roads anywhere in a National Park.

On the other hand there are road closures. The Traveller reported about the Carbon River Road in Mount Rainier NP about closed roads in Death Valley NP. True, the Carbon River Road is mainly about maintenance costs but the EIS addresses wildlife issues as well.

I'll jump on the no automobiles bandwagon. they're noisy, they smell, they pollute the air.
Ban them from all parks. It would only make the parks a better place.

Yeah, that one makes sense, let's ban autos....

Right. Now how's that for making the parks a)figure out how to move people are using shuttles (aka spend money that NPS doesn't have) and/or b)essentially banning most people from the parks/making them inaccessible for a large percentage of the population.

It seems to me whenever non gun-owners get into bed with the bureaucracy the rules will change and we can expect a ban on chewing gum in the near future. Why are some people so narrow minded.

And no wonder when some people stray in an effort to do good they go off the chart and are preceived as nuts.

The parks should be in control of activities within their boarders that contribute to the deterioration of the park setting. However, all the while, they must balance that need with the need to attract, educate, and fulfill visitor needs.

People who are upset about this need to realize that they are still protecting an activity that many people come to parks for. Further, parks that do often have to "dispatch" injured wildlife will now need to do so with non-lead bullets. This is a step that protects many of the animals that you visit parks to see. Furthermore, for those few parks who do have wildlife population reduction programs (aka hunts) those few individuals will need to jump through an additional hoop. Fishing has also been protected.

Now to the car thing.

If the NPS ban things like guns and lead ammo in the name of wildlife protection, why won't it ban cars?

Cars have been banned is some parks (as others have pointed out). Many other parks offer options other than personal automobiles to get around (i.e., buses, tours, shuttles, etc.). Just like with ammo and sinkers, the parks have made adjustments within their boarders to try and accommodate for a more environmentally friendly use of autos. Outside Yellowstone you can drive your car at 75 miles per hour on a two lane road, inside you are limited to something like 45 at the fastest. The same is true with many other parks and many other activities that trend towards detrimental.

Scientifically sound rules, taking precautions to protect the environment, are good for parks and are demanded by the Organic Act.

Be happy that we have a system where public and the system itself fights to protect the long term viability of our parks.

My problem with this one size fits all approach. If we have a problem with condors, address it. Most people are sensable on these issues. If there is PROVEN problem, most people will agree something needs to be done. I read the study and I believe there are holes in it. It was worded to make you think that the data was conclusive, it is not. This is what happens when the group doing the study already has an agenda.

Just like with ammo and sinkers, the parks have made adjustments within their boarders [sic] to try and accommodate for a more environmentally friendly use of autos.

A more environmentally friendly use of autos? Ok, slowing to 45 mph in the park *might* reduce roadkill, but I'm skeptical. I've had too many coworkers with tales of carnage while driving at 45 mph, including one who hit a black bear. What other accommodations has the NPS made for "a more environmentally use of autos"? Please keep in mind that closing roads to traffic does not fall under this category.

Be happy that we have a system where public and the system itself fights to protect the long term viability of our parks.

I don't see the public or the system fightin' all that hard "to protect the long-term viability of our parks". The public and the system together arguably make up the government, and the new administration has proved itself as icy towards the financial needs of national parks as the last administration.

The current system for managing parks is anything but sustainable. The federal government is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, with tens of trillions in debt and unfunded future obligations.

The anti lead ammo agenda has been growing. It started from some legitimate concerns, like lead concentration in water from waterfowl hunting. The condor study was another legitimate concern.

But the lead ban in ammo is a back door attempt to ban hunting and guns. There has been a lot of attempts to stop guns by going after ammo. The micros stamping is just an example. Taxes on ammo are another. So yes the gun rights people question the need for lead ban ammo in NPS when there is no need in NPS lands since hunting or shooting is not done there except rarely.

There are some statutes that ban copper bullets and tungsten is very expensive. The are ballistic issues also with no lead bullets.

I find the timing suspicous after the NPS was forced to allow guns with CCW rules. So I do suspect that weapons and ammo checks is the next step to prevent CCW holders with guns in NPS lands.

There is strong agenda against fishing and hunting by PETA and the Humane society and they have use the lead in ammo as one of their strategies to stop those sports. Any sportsman who enjoys those activities have a reason to worry.

I don't see the public or the system fightin' all that hard "to protect the long-term viability of our parks".

I should have been more specific. The public being your average visitor has little input in how the parks are run. However, NGO's (non governmental organizations) Like NRA, Shooting sports foundation, Sierra Club, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and many Friends of the "Name your favorite park" groups are all organized and actively pushing to protect the parks in ways they see fit.

While this is off topic, I'll take a second to list some more auto related accommodations. Visitor education (handouts...even though many don't read them), wildlife road signs (not the average dear crossing signs), whenever possible managing road traffic with rangers when wildlife gather near roads, interp exhibits, interp safety messages, and creating more open roadsides to make wildlife more visible. Wildlife is not the only reason that the speed is lowered in park borders, car vs car is probably more hazardous than wildlife. Finally, in response to your comment about being skeptical about the influences of speed on auto induced wildlife mortality it seems that you are correct to be skeptical. Some animals, like the whitetail and bighorn sheep, don't always show the expected trend of slower=lower incidences. However, other species do react better to lower speed, like elk. Do a google scholar search for wildlife and road mortality for supporting evidence.

Now back to the topic. Here are some opinions about nonlead ammo that run counter to many of the claims read in this blog. Note, this is on the "condorinfo" website, so they will be biased in the support of non-lead, second it is a PDF.

Also, another google scholar search using lead ammunition produces finds over 100,000 sources of information. Many identifying the hazards of lead. But as RAH noted, some folks are not going to see this purely about limiting lead exposure to wildlife, people, and land. Maybe, it does have some political influence behind it. And it is right to call that out. But the science behind heavy metal poisoning is irrefutable. If sportspeople want to ensure that their hobbies and needs are protected they should be proactive in their use of science, and they should push back when their rights are challenged. I have seen a lot of the latter but less of the former in this discussion.

As our ability to measure our own impacts on the environment increase, we should expect to see rules like this one change. Where there is room to lessen the impacts of use, the park's organic act pushes us to make the decision that are more likely to protect the long term viability of the resource.

My god I sound preachy.

WOW, Frank C,
If you feel that strongly about Autos in a NP how about you give up yours? Bet you could save some money on insurance and fuel huh?
I bet the home where you live used to be home to many species of animals. Are they all extinct now because you want your home where it is? How about you tear down your Home, grow plants and trees and allow the wildlife to repopulate your development?
Or how about leave decade’s old traditions of family enjoyment alone and stay out of the way. OBX (NC Outer Banks) beach since the beginning of their population WERE the roads. The original owners of the OBX beach property gave the land to the U.S Government to form the parks as an agreement to the government probably before you were born. That agreement between the land owners and the government was that the beaches would forever be accessible by residents and visitors of the OBX.
BTW the NP on OBX is officially called a Cape Hatteras National Seashore RECREATION AREA. Named justly so to prevent folks like you coming out years later from prohibiting family traditions of fishing for a living. So far those with your ideals have successfully just about wiped out all the fish houses in North Carolina not to mention contributed to an amazingly fast economic decline in these areas. I’m sure I as well as many others could find several issues we might have with your occupation and force you to find another means of supporting your family without regard to your geographical location. It’s not easy or practical to commute from the OBX to the mainland for work.
Its folks with these ideas that force the U.S to import much of its Seafood and destroy local economies. Where does the fresh seafood you eat come from? Shrimp from Taiwan while U.S tax payers suffer from the inability to make their own honest living?
And what about family traditions that stretch back 100 years of a family surf fishing vacations on undeveloped beaches?
How did these “endangered” Piping Plovers ever exist on the OBX with the presence of ORV’s? Did it ever occur to Pro-Beach Closure persons and Anti-Access in NPs that the mere presence of humans would deter predators from these “Endangered” birds?
Or perhaps this is just another prime example of the “Wussification” of America? Save the weak of the species that can’t make the whole migration North in Spring and encourage them to become weaker by promoting the breeding of lesser willed and able of the population so they can forever be subject to conditions never meant for them such as entire nesting grounds being washed away without warning by something as simple as an abnormally high tide.
Instead of preventing Japan from meeting Hitler half way across Europe, we should have simply extended an olive branch and begged for dialogue? I don’t think you would find many people who would agree that would have worked out well. The same as what the U.S is begging Iran for?
Keep up the movement of the “Wussification” of America. You will be remembered as one who helped destroy a strong nation by eliminating family traditions, family businesses, industries and entire economies that have depended on these activities for survival since the beginning of their discovery by Europeans.
You should be ashamed to promote or agree with the idea that Lead sinkers for fishing in the Ocean are such a danger to the existence of life on earth. Where does lead come from? How much exactly of a dose does it take to kill something or someone?
I’m pretty sure that more humans in the U.S die each year from complications of a common cold than those animals that die from lead poisoning.
But I’ll tell you what. I’ll agree to not drive my ORV on the OBX or any other state park if you agree to reimburse me for the thousands of dollars spent modifying it so as to leave the smallest foot print on the environment as I could. (In all truth I wanted a Town Car instead of a SUV). I want you to rally support to purchase my property I have so I could enjoy these beauties of nature. The tens of thousands in personal property tax I have paid to retain these possessions, dwellings, fishing gear, Educational materials about the environment, my family and hundreds of thousands of persons enjoy each day. Then subsidize my income to replace the food I caught, trapped and hunted so I no longer have a need or will to hunt, fish or harvest my own food.
How many refrigerators have you disposed of in your lifetime? Air conditioners? Are you 100% sure that your car, house and vehicle AC systems do not leak a single amount of CFCs into the atmosphere? I think we should take them away from you until we can prove that they do NOT in fact leak at all. Then you should be subject to annual checks you are responsible for paying for to maintain and ensure they do not ever leak?
Sounds incredibly ridiculous doesn’t it? Well now you know how we outdoor enthusiasts feel. What good is experiencing the outdoors if it is reduced to a simulator so as not to touch, feel and breathe the environment?

As our technology continues to evolve, science seems to be catching up to our activities. There's nothing wrong with course correction in this instance. There's no harm in doing the right thing by wildlife, ourselves and just having a good outdoor spirit in general.

More socialist politics. This is a beginning, not an end. The complete disarming of Americans is a beginning, not an end. We currently have an administration that wants to control every aspect of our lives. Let's just ban people. That would end "pollution". Would that make the liberal crowd happy?

Aww, come on Volpe! Not wearing a seat belt *does* affect other people: If you end up 3 months in the hospital after torpedoing through your windshield, someone other than you is going to have to pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills you owe. If you have insurance, rates will have to rise for other policy holders. If you don't, the hospital will raise the bill for other patients to cover their losses on you. I suppose if you're willing to sign a waiver that says that doctors should euthanize you when you mess yourself up exercising your 'rights' to do risky and foolish things, then ok--but I have yet to see anyone step up and do that.

You extreme libertarians and gun rights folks seem to treat any restriction, no matter how reasonable, as proof that there is some vast conspiracy to take away your God-given liberties. Get a grip! You live on a small patch of earth with 300 million other people. If we don't reasonably regulate people's behavior when that behavior affects others or the values we hold (like not wanting to be responsible for animals having a slow, agonizing death due to lead poisoning), you'd promptly learn how others can really mess with your freedom.

Instead of worrying that government is coming to take away your manhood, er, guns, maybe you would do better to focus on the fact that you're being manipulated by conservative demagogues, funded by the ultra-rich, that have used anti-government rhetoric to systematically move the political and economic system in favor of the ultra-rich and against the interests of everyone else over the last 30 years. There is a vast conspiracy, and you're nothing but puppets in it.