The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

National Park Lead Ammo Ban in Doubt

NRA Goes Ballistic on Gun-Shy Obama Administration


The National Park Service has stepped back from a
plan it announced earlier this month to ban lead-based ammunition and fishing
tackle by 2010, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). The proposed lead ban triggered a fierce counterattack by gun groups
that has put into doubt the pledge to eliminate lead ammunition from the
park system by 2010.

On March 4, 2009, Acting National Park Service (NPS) Director Daniel Wenk
sent out an internal directive that the agency would outlaw the use of lead
in firearms, fishing and hunting by "December 31, 2010 or sooner." Wenk
wrote that he had issued instructions that a "Special Regulation" be
drafted "prohibiting the use of lead in hunting and fishing activities
for those parks that authorize such activities". Hunting is permitted
in 60 NPS units and fishing in widely allowed throughout the national park

Reaction from hunting groups after the lead ban was publicly announced was
immediate and sharp. For example, National Rifle Association chief lobbyist
Chris Cox said on March 12th:

"The NPS announcement demonstrates either complete ignorance or complete
arrogance as to the effect that this policy will have on hunters...This
policy, and the lack of communication in advance with the sportsmen's community,
is a deliberate attempt to reduce the number of people who will want to hunt ....The
NRA will continue to be a voice of opposition against this unnecessary action..."

Shortly thereafter, on March 18 NPS issued a "Clarification" that
steps back from the vow of a ban:

"In the future, we will look at the potential for transitioning to
non-lead ammunition and non-lead fishing tackle for recreational use by working
with our policy office and appropriate stakeholders/groups. This will require
public involvement, comment, and review."

"This lead ban is an early test of whether the Obama administration
will be guided by science or politics in setting environmental policy," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is preparing a rulemaking
petition to accomplish the no-lead policy if the NPS plan remains in limbo. "We
urge the Obama administration to keep with its original timeline of going lead-free
by 2011."

The Park Service "Get-the-Lead-Out!" plan emanated from within
the agency without a clear political patron. The new administration is already
struggling with how to handle a controversial NRA-backed repeal of rules against
carrying loaded firearms in all national parks and wildlife refuges.

The reason for a ban is the harm to wildlife from ingestion of spent lead
shot, bullets or sinkers, as well as the danger of dissolved lead contaminating
groundwater. In 1991, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service banned lead shot
nationwide in waterfowl hunting. Several countries, including Canada, have
lead ammunition bans. Last year, California adopted a partial ban while in
Minnesota the NRA blocked a legislative effort to outlaw lead ammunition.

"The issue with non-lead ammo is cost. There are readily available alternatives,
such as tungsten, copper, and steel, but they are a little more expensive," added
Ruch, commenting that hunting has not decreased in states or countries that
restrict lead ammunition. "It is obviously not a good idea to pump loads
of lead into the environment, let alone across national parks."

at the National Park Service "Get the Lead Out!" Directive

the back-tracking NPS "clarification"

Read the full NRA statement

the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance opposition alert on NPS lead ban

Find the latest research on lead and wildlife

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.