Monday, August 9, 2010

the next steps: where do we go with lead?

A news article in the New York Times, linked here, describes efforts to get the EPA to ban lead in all hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. A petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and the American Bird Conservancy seeks this change from EPA, based on evidence of lead poisoning in many species. Lead shot is already banned for hunting waterfowl, and recent legislation in California does that for ammunition for big game, within the range of the California Condor. There are many studies that show the harmful or indeed lethal effects of accidental ingestion of lead bullet fragments in deer and other carcasses (or the "gut piles" left after field dressing of game animals) by eagles and other raptors, and accidental ingestion of lead tackle in waters by Trumpeter Swans and loons.

Opponents of such regulatory changes assert that saving individual animals is not meaningful in terms of "population level effects" - in other words, they contend that populations of Bald Eagles and Trumpeter Swans and loons are not significantly affected by lead poisoning, so regulating against such potential poisoning is not clearly in the interests of conservation of wildlife populations. But there are other issues at stake. Many view the evolution of regulatory efforts on behalf of wildlife as heading in the direction of "doing the right thing" - even if it isn't always (or only) based on science. I would suggest that learning all that one can learn on this topic is wise - voting, referenda, and accurate determinations by state and federal regulators will depend on their (and our) level of preparedness and knowledge. If you feel strongly about this - let your legislators know. What do you think - is it really time to consign the use of lead to the history books?

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