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Drums beating to ban lead in ammo nationwide, but the science is weak

By JIM MATTHEWS Lead ammunition for hunting will be completely banned in California by 2019 under the guise of protecting wildlife from lead poisoning. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) director, Charles Bonham, supported the legislation that mandated this ban. No scientist within the state agency would admit to supporting the ban because the science for the statewide ban remains non-existent. Now the drum to ban lead ammunition is beating in Oregon and the upper Midwest because of some surveys and more weak science. It makes me crazy! Some facts need to be pointed out. 1) With the exception of California condors, where the endangered population is so small that every death of a bird is critical, lead poisoning is NOT a factor in the decline of any species. None. Lead has been found in scavenging birds, even at lethal levels. But the number of birds poisoned to death is far less than other mortality factors and none of these bird populations are in decline (and most are showing steady increases since DDT was banned decades ago). Lead is not impacting golden eagles, not bald eagles, not crows and ravens, none of them. So there is NO science that suggests lead bullets or bullet fragments are harming any wildlife populations. None. 2) The cost factor of non-lead ammunition over lead ammunition is routinely dismissed or ignored by those pressing for bans, including many in state and federal game agencies who get paid far more than the average hunter. Yet, for many hunters the difference between a $60 box of big game hunting ammunition and a bargain $15 box is significant. That $45 can mean be the difference of two hunting buddies being able to afford a tank of gas for an old truck to go on a hunting trip or not. All non-lead ammunition costs far more than lead by factors of four to six times. 3) In the entire range of condors in California, lead hunting ammunition has been banned since 2008 and the DFW says hunter compliance is nearly 100 percent. Yet, California condors continue to exhibit high levels of background lead in their blood and systems. Ironically, golden eagles in the non-lead zone have seen their background lead levels drop to zero. This suggests condors are getting lead from other sources, but no one is addressing that issue, especially in the media. If it was so critical that we ban lead ammunition in California, why did the legislature give the Fish and Game Commission until 2019 to phase in ban? Why? Because it’s not about science or any pressing wildlife need. It’s part of the political agenda to ban lead ammunition. And that agenda is spreading across the country like wild fire. In Oregon, the state university system and the state game agency have partnered up to survey hunters on lead ammunition, assuming lead is a bad thing. This is setting the stage for ban talks. In the upper Midwest, a really horrible scientific paper that examined bald eagle carcasses and bullet fragments in deer gut piles drew some conclusions that some management changes were in order. The paper did not and could not (with the data collected and other supporting scientific literature) draw any correlations between eagles that had high lead levels and the gut piles with lead. It was pure speculation, not science. It was filled with the words “might” and “may.” Yet, now the feds are parading around a presentation at public meetings around the region showing off the data so they can press for lead ammunition bans based on what I’m calling “bandwagon science.” The liberal environmentalists want something so we invent the science to support it. No one is looking at the California example, where our lead condor ban has done nothing for condors. And there’s no science to back up banning lead for any other species. Our legislators didn’t look at the California example before they banned lead here, why should other states? I don’t want to hear some whining liberal say, “but if you could save just one bald eagle by banning….” That’s the same stupid argument people make about gun control. “If you could save one child’s life….” Well, if you use that argument, you have to use it for the things you like, too. If you could save one drunk driver’s victim by banning wine (any or all alcoholic beverages)…. If you could save one tree squirrel in Crestline by making the speed limit three miles per hour…. If you could stop one high-speed teenage driving accident by putting 30 mile-per-hour speed limits on all roads (they wouldn’t drive over the speed limit, right?)…. Or, if we don’t trust people not to drive the speed limit, how about we put governor devices on all our cars that regulate our speed to 30 miles per hour. They would be safer and get better mileage. Oh no, you don’t want big brother to intrude when it’s your ox getting gored. But you’re more than happy to see lead ammunition banned for hunting because you don’t have the facts. But it’s not about the facts, is it? END

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