Nontoxic ammo will be needed to hunt pronghorn at Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and wild turkey and whitetails at Little Pend Oreille NWR, while lead fishing tackle won’t be allowed in the Seeps Lakes of the Columbia NWR or Lake Lowell at Deer Flat NWR under a federal order signed late last week.
All other Northwest national wildlife refuges are similarly affected by the Jan. 19 decision by outgoing USFWS Secretary Dan Ashe and which is scheduled to be fully phased in by 2022.
Service spokesman Gavin Shire in Washington DC said that internal processes still to be developed would determine implementation timelines. While he couldn’t speculate on what the Trump Administration might or might not do, he said a subsequent director’s order could reverse it.
The move caught some by surprise.
“This action flies squarely in the face of a long and constructive tradition of states working in partnership with the service to effectively manage fish and wildlife resources,” Nick Wiley of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies said, according to The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “The association views this order as a breach of trust and deeply disappointing given that it was a complete surprise and there was no current dialogue or input from fish and wildlife agencies prior to issuance.”
“The sportfishing industry views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, other angling organizations and 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,” said Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association, in a press release out today.
Thanks to its density, softness and availability, lead has long been an important, cheap element for making bullets and fishing tackle, but concern has ramped up over the past 30 years about its lingering effects in the field.
“Exposure to lead ammunition and fishing tackle has resulted in harmful effects to fish and wildlife species,” the Director’s Order states. “According to the U.S. Geological Survey, lead poisoning is a toxicosis caused by the absorption of hazardous levels of lead in body tissues. Ingested lead pellets from shotgun shells have been a common source of lead poisoning in birds. The Service recognized the problem of avian exposure to lead shot used for waterfowl hunting and enacted restrictions in 1991 and hunting and waterfowl populations have thrived since.”
A handful of states have moved to ban the substance in fishing gear — in Washington, a dozen lakes frequented by loons have restrictions on small tackle — and by 2019, California hunters will be required to use nontoxic bullets statewide.
There are alternatives available, but the knock against them has been they are more expensive. Still, at the recommendation of noted Northwest salmon and steelhead angler Buzz Ramsey, who is also a wide-ranging big game hunter, this magazine editor will be trying nontoxic Barnes Bullets this coming deer season.
The Northwest features dozens of national wildlife refuges, many hosting hunting and/or fishing in some form.
Recent years saw opportunities opened or expanded by the Obama Administration, including at William T. Finley, Julia Butler Hansen and Saddle Mountain NWRs in 2012, and Baskett, Siletz Bay, Nestucca, Willapa, Malheur and Bandon Marsh NWRs in 2013.