Fish & Wildlife Service Plans to Phase Out Traditional Lead Ammo on Public Lands by 2026

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USFWS Director Martha Williams (courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)

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The ATF isn’t the only federal regulatory agency that is newly dedicated to making life even more difficult and expensive for gun owners since the current occupant of the White House was inaugurated. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also on board the hoplophobic express. They’d been hinting for months about once again mandating lead-free ammunition on private lands based on sketchy claims that using lead-free ammunition benefits wildlife.

The USFWS had tried to slip in a similar ban in the last days of the Obama administration, but it was reversed when Trump took office.

Yesterday, the USFWS published its new proposed rule which would ban lead ammo and fishing tackle by the end of 2026. The NSSF released this statement in response . . .

NSSF, the firearm and ammunition industry trade association, categorically rejects the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Proposed Rule (PR) published today. The Proposed Rule would improperly trade access to public lands in exchange for a ban on traditional ammunition made with lead components which has no scientific basis and would disenfranchise the outdoorsmen and women who support and fund conservation.

“This is a Faustian bargain that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “The Service isn’t following the science and isn’t serving those who invest their dollars to perpetuate wildlife conservation. Instead, this Proposed Rule serves special interest anti-hunting groups to the detriment of conservation-minded hunters and anglers.”

The USFWS announced new proposed hunting and fishing opportunities for game species at 19 national wildlife refuges on approximately 54,000 acres nationwide. Slipped into that proposal, though, is a phased ban of traditional ammunition by 2026. The USFWS, according to their press release, indicated that this measure is based on the best scientific data available, however no data indicates that traditional ammunition is causing population declines of any wildlife species at any of the refuges.

The anti-hunting Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a petition yesterday with the Department of the Interior calling for a Director’s Order requiring the phaseout of traditional ammunition on the entire Refuge System and initiate formal rulemaking to phase out traditional ammunition by Sept. 30, 2024. The timing of CBD’s petition raises questions about whether it was filed to coincide with today’s proposed rule. CBD had earlier sued USFWS in federal court in Montana seeking a ban on traditional ammunition for hunting on federal lands. Rather than moving to dismiss the case, the Service immediately entered into settlement discussions with CDB that are ongoing.

The USFWS announced earlier this year that a record-breaking $1.5 billion was apportioned to the states for conservation projects, of which $1.1 billion was directly tied to Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers. Hunters and recreational shooters support conservation when they purchase these products. The ban on traditional ammunition would force hunters to use non-lead alternatives which cost more and are much harder to find than traditional ammunition.

The Obama administration attempted a similar ban on traditional ammunition on the final day of the administration. Then-USFWS Director Dan Ashe signed an order in the waning hours of the administration that banned the use of traditional ammunition on federal lands without consulting with state wildlife managers or conservation groups. Like the Proposed Rule, that order had no foundation in science and was repealed by former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as his first official act on his first day in office.

NSSF calls on USFWS Director Martha Williams to follow the science of wildlife management and abandon this attempt to disenfranchise outdoorsmen and women and put the interest of true conservationists over special interest ant-hunting groups. NSSF urges all outdoorsmen and women to register their concerns with this policy posted on the Federal Register before Aug. 8, 2022.

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