Enacting lead-free ammo and tackle requirements on National Wildlife Refuges

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to open seven National Wildlife Refuges to hunting and sport fishing, expand hunting at 83 other NWRs, add regulations that pertain to hunting and fishing, and reduce the regulatory burden on the public (which I interpret as ‘develop a uniform set of regulations where possible’). The proposed regulations may set hunting and fishing seasons, bag or creel limits, methods of hunting and sport fishing, and areas open to hunting and sport fishing.

The Raptor Resource Project does not oppose an expansion of hunting or sport fishing, but we want to see the Service adopt a uniform nontoxic shot and tackle rule for all hunting and fishing in National Wildlife Refuges. While lead ammo isn’t used for migratory bird hunting in most cases, birds are still sickened and killed by lead used in hunting and fishing for other game. An expansion means that America’s ‘duck factories’, migratory flyways and feeding grounds, prime fisheries, and raptor breeding habitat will be loaded with even more toxic lead unless a ban is enacted.

Nontoxic ammo and tackle are not rare and are already required for some species and in some locations. A consistent rule will reduce the regulatory burden on the public, since ammo requirements will be consistent from refuge to refuge, and prevent unnecessary, unintended death of non-target animals.

We are calling for a phaseout of leaded ammo on all National Wildlife Refuges by 2026 as part of the expansion. The public has until midnight of July 6th to comment on this issue. To learn more about and comment on this issue, go to https://www.regulations.gov/document/FWS-HQ-NWRS-2021-0027-0001 and select the blue ‘Comment’ button on the left hand side of the page.

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Thank you to the Virginia Society of Ornithology and Audubon Society of Northern Virginia for bringing this issue to our attention.