The head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued an order Jan. 19, his last day in office, to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle from wildlife refuges by 2022 to protect birds from lead poisoning.
Outgoing Director Daniel Ashe’s Order 219 would require hunters to use nontoxic bullets at more than 300 national wildlife refuges, including ten in North Carolina, and protected wetlands instead of more common and generally cheaper lead ammunition. Also banned was use of lead weights, fishing sinkers and tackle.
The order expands a 1991 federal ban on lead shot for hunting waterfowl, credited with saving scores of birds from ingesting lead pellets from the floor of swamps, lakes and ponds.
Gun-rights supporters were quick to oppose the order, claiming “government overreach” and “breach of trust” by imposing a blanket ban without consulting with state hunting agencies. Other critics called it a “political act not supported by science” and vowed to get it overturned by the new Interior Secretary whose confirmation was pending in Congress.
Ashe said, “We know birds are dying and we know the source is lead-based ammunition, and we know we can do something about it, especially on national wildlife refuges. Why wouldn’t we do something?”
The ban was effective immediately but will terminate on July 31, 2018 unless amended, superseded or revoked. Read complete text of order here.