NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The California Fish and Game Commission voted on May 13 to publish a notice of intent to expand the scope of its ban on the use of traditional ammunition to now include upland and small game in the California condor range—an action completely unnecessary for protecting condors and that will create yet another roadblock to hunting in the state, said the National Shooting Sports Foundation, trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.
The Fish and Game Commission announced its intention to expand the ban on traditional ammunition containing lead components even though the state’s Department of Fish & Game does not support this expansion and despite the fact there is no scientific evidence that shows condors are at risk of ingesting ammunition fragments by feeding on small game because these are not the condor’s traditional food source.
The commission’s action is in response to a lawsuit settlement between the state and plaintiffs the Natural Resources Defense Council and Center for Biological Diversity that stipulates the commission will consider amending regulations requiring alternative ammunition for taking small game within condor range.
In opposing this unfounded expansion of the ban, the Department of Fish & Game noted that almost all small game is recovered in the field by hunters and that it would be unlikely that a condor could even find a small-game animal or bird that was not recovered.
“Hunting has already declined in the region where traditional ammunition was recently banned for taking big game, potentially costing California millions of dollars for wildlife conservation,” said Steve Sanetti, NSSF president and CEO. “The decision to expand the ban on traditional ammunition for hunting upland and small game without any scientific basis will further reduce hunting in the state and the economic and social benefits that hunting provides.”
License fees and excise taxes on the firearms and ammunition purchased by hunters are the largest single source of wildlife conservation funding. More than 295,000 hunters purchased licenses in 2008 in California, and according to the Fish & Game Department, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 hunters are affected by the ban on traditional ammunition, primarily hunters of deer, wild pig and non-game species such as coyote.
Even though no conclusive scientific evidence supported claims that some condors had higher elevated blood lead levels from ingesting ammunition fragments while scavenging entrails from hunter-harvested big game, the state last year imposed a ban on traditional ammunition for big-game hunting in designated condor ranges.
In signing the ban into law on July 1, 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ignored requests from the executive committee of the Condor Recovery Team, NSSF, sportsmen’s groups and individual hunters to support voluntary, non-ban measures such as burying game entrails that would interrupt the potential pathways for condors ingesting spent ammunition fragments.
It is not surprising that hunting has fallen off in areas where traditional ammunition is banned, as a pre-ban survey predicted and 2008 deer and pig tag sales confirmed, given that alternative ammunition is significantly more expensive than traditional ammunition and not available in all hunting calibers. Hunters prefer traditional ammunition not only because it is less expensive but because they are more familiar with its performance.
A pre-ban survey of hunters by Responsive Management Company indicated that 25 percent of California hunters would either quit big game hunting or hunt less if a ban was adopted, with 15 percent indicating they would hunt in another state. “If hunters indicated the ammunition ban for big game would cause them not to hunt or hunt outside the Golden State, it follows that a ban related to upland and small game will raise another hurdle to hunters and further erode hunting in California,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.
Public comment is scheduled for June 25 on the Fish and Game Commission’s intent to impose a ban on traditional ammunition for upland and small game. NSSF will submit testimony opposing the ban and also encourages hunters to contact their state legislators to oppose expanding the ban.
NSSF supports science-based policy related to the use of traditional ammunition and urges lawmakers to strongly question the motivations of groups advocating banning traditional ammunition and, by extension, hunting.
For more information about traditional ammunition and how it relates to the California condor, see http://www.nssf.org/media/FactSheets/Lead_Ammunition.cfm.