Getting The Lead Out

Getting The Lead Out
By Anthony P Mauro, Sr (c) 2011

Conservation Corner w/ Anthony P. Mauro, Sr
Conservation Corner w/ Anthony P. Mauro, Sr

USA –-( I’m sure that many of you have been reading about the coalition of groups that have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead bullets and weights used by hunters and anglers.

They state the federal government is charged to enact such a ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

As with so many initiatives of our modern era it is difficult to determine those fueled by political agenda versus those by substance. Certainly, the petition before the EPA can be interpreted to represent the former. Even the main argument in the petition, the impact of lead on waterbird populations, is not adequately substantiated.

Those of us who have weathered decades of attacks on our freedoms to fish and hunt are predisposed to view the petition as another salvo to weaken our freedoms and create attrition in our ranks by making fishing and hunting too expensive and cumbersome.

We can legitimately assert that there is no evidence that “populations” of wildlife are being impacted by the use of lead products. In fact, we can point to populations of endangered species that have robustly recovered in spite of the use of lead bullets and gear; bald eagles, wolves and wild turkeys are examples. Much of this success can even be attributed to the efforts of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen.

From a wide-view perspective, wildlife management is a practice of managing “populations” and not “individuals.” The petition inverts this methodology with its emphasis on managing “individuals,” and if we begin to manage “individuals” we risk losing our focus on the real threats to “populations.”

A good example of this phenomenon is now taking form in New Jersey, as groups work to ban lead and save “individual” animals they turn their backs on extirpated (locally extinct) wildlife species such as; quail, ruffed grouse, shortnose sturgeon and other “populations.” These groups have been ineffective in managing the key cause of extirpation: habitat loss caused by sprawl, forest neglect, water pollution and other factors. How do we justify our focus on preventing the unlikely swallowing of a lead sinker by an “individual” fish while turning our backs on the pervasive destruction of wildlife “populations” due to habitat loss or degradation?

Furthermore, if we choose to direct our attention at managing “individuals” there is the opportunity for those with malicious intent to misuse laws and stop fishing and hunting due to effects that might occur to an individual animal, but not animal populations. The devil remains in the details and with this petition there is enough reason to consider that the details are at the devil’s whim.

A similar petition to ban lead in fishing tackle was presented to the EPA in 1992 and was canceled partly because the agency found that the impact of lead was not a threat to any bird population. The current petition is also a misplaced priority and should be abandoned by the EPA.

However, with due respect to what I’ve written, the commitment of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to environmental stewardship should encourage us to consider the role of lead in ecosystems. Lead found in one animal can be ingested by prey in the food chain. Although there is no immediate threat to public health or to wildlife populations our obligations as outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen extend to the environment and should compel us to use lead-free alternatives such as copper bullets or rigs made of tungsten, brass or even drilled river stones.

If the federal government is truly committed to lead-free outdoor products then it should focus its efforts on creating a policy that provides incentives to manufacturers to produce effective and affordable alternatives. As more people purchase these alternatives companies will find predictability in a growing market and have the confidence to invest in research, development and production of lead-free bullets and gear. Economies of scale and a breadth of lead-free product offerings should ultimately drive down prices of gear.

Unlike the proposed lead ban, providing incentives to assist manufacturers in producing lead-free products will inspire trust in the outdoor community towards the initiative, make these products more affordable and also help the outdoor community fulfill its obligation to ensure a healthy environment.

Color The Green Movement Blue
Color The Green Movement Blue

Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

In addition to NJOA, Ant’s commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and stewardship for the environment helped to found the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus. The NJAHC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policy makers of the principles of conservation and the benefits that confer to the state’s wildlife and ecology.

A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Ant is an international big game hunter and avid conservationist. He has authored two books on conservation and hunting, including “Color The Green Movement Blue“.