column By: Steve Garbe | June, 17
In case you haven’t heard, Dan Ashe, appointed by the Obama administration to the office of Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sent out Director Order No. 219 on the final day of his tenure that stated: “Will require the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement or health and safety uses, as provided by in this policy.” This applied to all federal wildlife refuges and any other lands regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I guess I don’t have to explain the seriousness of this action or the politics behind it.
Well, maybe I do have to explain it. This means that any firearm – Kentucky longrifle, BPCR single shot, .22 rimfire, modern bolt action or AR-15 – could not be used on U.S. Fish and Wildlife lands if firing lead or lead-core projectiles. In the case of the roundball muzzleloader or black-powder breechloader, this effectively takes them out of use for hunting or shooting on those same lands. This demonstrates how all firearms owners – shotgun, vintage or modern – must stand together against restrictive, anti-hunting policies.
However, in a definite sign of good things to come, Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s appointee to the office of Interior Secretary, reversed the order on March 2, 2017, saying, “After reviewing the order and the process by which it was promulgated, I have determined that the order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders.”
Well, finally . . . someone who is calling things for what they are, namely a heavy-handed political Trojan Horse put into play to further whittle away hunters’ rights on federal lands. The least imaginative among us can see where this would have ultimately led.
Did I mention that Ryan Zinke is a state senator from Montana, a hunter and fisherman as well as a retired Navy Seal? Those facts don’t guarantee specific personal traits, but it would seem that Mr. Zinke is possessed of that all-too-rare commodity, namely common sense. We are fervently hoping that he will stand up for sportsmen nationwide and review and repeal any onerous regulations governing the use of our federal lands. Indeed, in another order put out by Zinke, he asked federal agencies to promote outdoor recreation on the administered lands. He said, “It worries me to think about hunting and fishing becoming activities for the land-owning elite. This package of secretarial orders will expand access for outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is heard.”
In 2013, California issued a state ban on lead-bullet ammunition that by 2019 will prohibit that ammunition for hunting all game species anywhere in the state, including federal lands. I would hope that there would be a legal challenge raised by Secretary Zinke’s office to California’s arbitrary statewide ban.
The main reason put forward by those wishing to ban lead-bullet ammunition is the survival of the California condor. Some scientists say that the birds ingest lead from carcasses or gut-piles left by hunters. While I’m sure that this may be true in some cases, the real reason that the condor connection is being pushed, in my opinion, is that it is a politically expeditious way to restrict hunting in California.
Now before there is too much squalling about that last statement, let me relate some information that came to my attention concerning the installation of wind turbines in the traditional range of the condor. Kern County in California is home to some of the largest wind farms in the United States; these wind farms have gone ahead with construction even though there have been vociferous objections raised by environmental groups concerning the killing of not only condors by the wind turbines, but eagles and hawks as well. The state has received huge federal government grants for green energy, however; and “the fix is in” regarding wind farms. The main difference that we should be looking at is that politicians in California are happy to sacrifice many more birds than would ever be killed by supposed lead poisoning to promote wind power and the accompanying federal dollars that are brought to the state.
Hypocrisy? You bet. In California, only a small percentage of the population are hunters and numbers matter to politicians. The actual welfare of the species in question is not the focus, only that a “whipping boy” can be found in the form of sportsmen. The actual facts concerning the chances of a condor being killed by lead poisoning or by a wind generator are irrelevant.
This latest action by Secretary Zinke gives a small glimmer of hope to hunters and shooters that possibly some intelligent discussion will take place on the topic of lead-bullet ammunition. Hopefully documentable facts, along with a common-sense assessment of the problem, will actually play a part in any future decisions by state and federal governments. We can only hope. – Gut Ziel