There’s no doubt the now-out-of-power Obama administration was the most anti-hunting, anti-gun and anti-outdoorsmen administration ever elected. Now, America’s sportsmen are left with the legacy, such as Executive Orders making vast areas off limits to hunting and fishing and similar, anti-sportsmen regulations imposed by politically appointed bureaucrats.
None may prove so egregious as the parting salute from Dan Ashe, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appointed by President Obama. Many say the salute was made with a hand showing only one up-raised finger.
On January 19, the last day Director Ashe was in charge, he issued the bureaucrat’s version of an Executive Order called Director’s Order 219, banning the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle on Service-controlled lands. “Traditional” ammo is bureau-speak for lead bullets and lead-loaded shotshells. Traditional fishing tackle is any, such as weights and lures, all or partially made using lead.
How much land and water is involved? According to FWS statistics, it’s 568,777,163 acres of National Refuges, Waterfowl Production Areas, National Monuments and other areas, almost all of it open to some sort of traditional outdoor activities. In response to the past administrations deliberate closing of federal lands to sportsmen, legislation was passed supposed to guarantee citizen access for hunting, fishing and other traditional uses of federal, including FWS lands. To overrule these statutes would literally require other acts of congress.
Ashe, a career political appointee tapped out by President Obama, was never trusted by sportsmen or hunting and fishing groups due to his coziness with anti-hunting and fishing groups. The last-minute action revives an effort the administration undertook eight years ago to ban the use of traditional ammunition and fishing gear. The measure was too politically sensitive to deal with the fallout of making such a ruling sooner, Ashe waited until he was on his way out the door to issue Order 219.
There’s no doubt lead, including spent bullets, shot and fishing sinkers can be toxic to animals accidentally eating them. There’s no doubt in distinct cases, hunters shooting lead ammunition or fishermen losing fishing sinkers can salt an area with small pieces of lead, slightly increasing the likelihood of an animal accidentally ingesting them. But these distinct cases and places are relatively few and have proven to be easily regulated, case by case.
In the cases and places lead bans have been enacted it’s been proven the substitutes for traditional ammunition and fishing gear is less effective and more expensive. Both aspects drive hunters and fishermen elsewhere or out of the game. This blanket order covering a half billion acres plays right into the agenda of anti-hunting and anti-fishing advocates.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industries, condemned the decision. “This directive is irresponsible and driven not out of sound science but unchecked politics,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president. “The timing alone is suspect. This directive was published without dialogue with industry, sportsmen or conservationists.
The American Sportfishing Association also weighed in. Scott Gudes, an ASA executive said, “The sportfishing industry views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, angling organizations or state fish and wildlife agencies, as a complete disregard for the economic and social impact it will have on anglers and the recreational fishing industry.”
Both groups agreed to be hopeful new leadership at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will repeal this Director’s Order and develop public policy in a way that is open, inclusive and based on science. Only time will tell if the new people are willing to create policy based upon scientific evidence of population impacts with regard to the use of traditional ammunition and fishing gear.