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Conservationists blast new federal rule on lead ammo as insufficient

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has faced staunch criticism from several animal welfare organizations for its final rule on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on national wildlife refuges.

Groups like Animal Wellness Action, the Center for a Humane Economy, and the Animal Wellness Foundation have labeled the new regulation as inadequate, addressing the problem on only eight out of more than 400 refuges that permit sport hunting.

Despite acknowledging the harm caused by lead in ammunition and tackle, based on what it calls the “best available science,” the agency plans to implement the phase-out of lead materials over a protracted timeline, not completing the process until September 2026. The rule will apply to Blackwater, Chincoteague, Eastern Neck, Erie, Great Thicket, Patuxent Research, Rachel Carson, and Wallops Island refuges, with Chincoteague being the only one exempt from the ban on lead fishing tackle.

Animal welfare advocates, including Wayne Pacelle, have derided the move as a token gesture that fails to enforce key federal wildlife protection laws. The criticism points to the rule as a mere 2 percent solution that inadequately addresses the widespread issue of lead poisoning, which affects not only wildlife but also poses a risk to human health. This move comes as a stark contrast to previous actions such as the successful 1991 ban on lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting and the now-reversed Director’s Order No. 219, which aimed for a broader phase-out of lead in refuges.