Fall hunting and fishing seasons are underway here in the United States. 

The 2022 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published in September 2023, revealed Americans spent $144.8 billion on hook and bullet activities last year.  

Anti-hunting and environmental groups have worked on a perennial basis to ban lead usage altogether on public lands under the guise of protecting bald eagles and endangered or threatened species that call national wildlife refuges home.

A November 2021 lawsuit inspired this policy change. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized its 2023-2024 Hunt Fish Rule on October 30th, 2023, to condition future public lands openings to new hunting and fishing opportunities on phase-out of lead tackle and bullet usage. Going forward, eight wildlife refuges will be required to mandate non-lead usage by 2026. The USFWS claims that it is following available evidence with this rulemaking. Is that true?

“The best available science, analyzed as part of this rulemaking, demonstrates that lead ammunition and tackle have negative impacts on both human health and wildlife, and those impacts are more acute for some species. The Service is engaged in a deliberate, open and transparent process of evaluating the future of lead use on Service lands and waters, working with our state partners and seeking input from other stakeholders and the public.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

False. Completely make believe.

The USFWS isn’t “following the science” on lead bullets and tackle. It is conditioning future public land openings in national wildlife refuges on lead phase-outs using faulty data. 

The agency is misleading the public here by conflating lead fragments from bullets with lead poisoning. Nowhere in the rule did USFWS analyze blood lead levels involving lead fragments. And it’s also troubling that it conceded to an anti-hunting, anti-conservationist petition that blames hunters and anglers for misusing lead components. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urges U.S. adults to not have their PbB levels exceed 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dl). When assessing blood lead levels of people who consumed and those who didn’t consume game meat, a joint CDC and North Dakota Health Department study determined control group participants (game meat eaters) “had 0.30 µg/dl higher PbB in comparison with those who did not consume wild game.” Simply put, the difference is statistically insignificant. The USFWS also ignored a 2008 U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) report that concluded lead poisoning can’t be attributed to “ingestion of lead bullet fragments in large game animals.” The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also conceded there’s no documented link between human illness and lead particles in wild game meat, writing, “To date, there have not been any cases of human illnesses linked to lead particles in hunter-harvested venison.” 

Wildlife biologist Jim Heffelfinger argued, “Those who consume high quantities of lead-killed venison should take precautions to lessen the risk and monitor their blood lead levels. However, all evidence indicates you would have to eat a lot of blood-shot burger frequently to maintain enough metallic lead in your digestive system for these fragments to be a dangerous source of lead poisoning. There is probably good reason the CDC has never identified lead bullet fragments in venison as a health issue.” 

Mandating lead phaseouts would also price consumers out of hunting and fishing opportunities because non-lead alternatives cost, on average, 10 to 20 times more than lead tackle and bullets. Another estimate says lead alternatives cost about 25% more. 

This ban will also impact conservation funding generated by excise taxes collected on lead ammunition and fishing tackle. $27 billion in conservation funding has been dispersed to all 50 states through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux). The Pittman-Robertson Act, alone, has generated $16 billion—or $25 billion when adjusted for inflation—from excise taxes collected on firearms and ammunition purchases. These monies, when distributed to all 50 states, support wildlife conservation, habitat restoration, public target shooting ranges, and hunters’ education courses. 

Hunters and anglers are responsible enough to make choices about whether or not to use lead in fishing and hunting activities. They’re also responsible enough to remove lead fragments from their wild game harvests and from public lands on which they recreate under the Leave No Trace Campaign.

To learn more about the implications of lead bans, go HERE.