Fire restrictions on BLM lands do not ban steel shot for hunters
By JIM MATTHEWS
The Bureau of Land Management clarified its fire restrictions this week to assure hunters that steel shot, now required for all small game and gamebirds other than quail and doves, is not banned for hunters on BLM lands.
Under the BLM fire section that bans “steel jacketed or steel core ammunition,” which would technically include steel shot now used by most hunters for chukar, cottontail rabbits, and tree squirrels now that lead-based ammunition is banned, there is an exception for licensed hunters.
A number of hunters had been questioning the BLM year-around fire restrictions posted on the agency’s website (at this link: https://www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/california/fire-restrictions). This is what is posted: “The possession or use of any steel jacketed or steel core ammunition of any caliber. This would include handgun, rifle and shotgun ammunition.”
“Wouldn’t that include my chukar loads?” asked a number of hunters. And technically, it would.
But Steven Razo, the public affairs officer for the BLM in Moreno Valley, quickly corralled some of the law enforcement staff and checked the complete regulation (not just what is posted on the website) and sent over the important information for hunters:
Razo wrote that federal government regulations exempt the following people from this specific fire restriction:
“a. Persons with a permit from or contract with the BLM that specifically authorizes the otherwise prohibited act.
“b. Any Federal, State, or local Officer, or member of an organized rescue, law enforcement or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty.
“c. Persons with a valid State of California hunting license actively engaged in the legal take/pursuit of Game/Non-Game species in accordance with the current hunting seasons.”
Razo said that avoid confusion in the future, the agency will “emphasize this [information] on the next fire restriction order that we publish.”
The state of California has phased in a ban of all lead hunting ammunition, and beginning next hunting season (Fall, 2019), non-lead ammunition will be required for all hunting. Steel shot is the most affordable option for small game and bird hunters. If the BLMs fire regulations had banned steel shot, the only alternative for hunters would have been very expensive and very difficult to find bismuth shotshells.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife has been phasing in the law passed by the California legislature in 2013, and the three-step phase-in began was adopted in 2015. The first phase kicked in for the 2015 hunting season, mandating the use on non-lead ammunition on all state wildlife areas and ecological reserves for all hunting, and for the taking of bighorn sheep. Phase 2 was implemented for the 2016 season, and it included a ban on lead shotgun ammunition for all birds and mammals except for dove, quail, and snipe. Phase three will begin for the 2019 season when all lead-based ammunition is banned for hunting of big game, small game, and all gamebirds. The ban applies to centerfire, muzzleloading, and rimfire rifle ammunition, handgun ammunition used for hunting, and all game taken with shotguns.
Lead ammunition is not banned for plinking or target shooting, and most other states have not banned any lead for hunting.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.