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Groups petition to ban lead ammo and tackle in national parks

(Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr Creative Commons)

News brief: 

Several environmental and scientific groups are petitioning the Department of the Interior to ban lead-based ammunition and tackle in national parks. They argue the move would be meaningful in slowing the spread of lead poisoning in wildlife.

Animals can be poisoned by lead through what they eat. Birds, for instance, often scavenge the remains of deer shot with lead bullets. Toxins that then enter their bloodstream can cause stomach and brain problems and potential death. A recent study found that around 30 percent of bald eagles in the U.S. have high levels of lead poisoning.

Chandra Rosenthal with the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, said banning lead ammo and fishing tackle is an easy step for the federal government to take to meet its conservation goals.

“This is not 1823, right? We're going into 2023,” Rosenthal said. “It's time to make sure that these parks have all fully transitioned to non-lead ammo.”

Hunting is currently allowed in 76 out of the more than 400 sites managed by the National Park Service. People can fish in more than 200. Some wildlife refuges in the Mountain West already ban lead-based ammunition due to environmental concerns.

“They’ve found lead in bears. They’ve found lead and ravens. In fish,” Rosenthal said. “The alternatives for lead ammo are available. They’re not very expensive.”

The American Bird Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists joined PEER in petitioning Interior.

Many in the gun industry have opposed any moves to ban lead ammunition on federal lands. They argue it could raise costs and reduce opportunities for hunters. Meanwhile, more and more sportsmen and women are switching to copper bullets.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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