Order targets lead in ammo, sinkers
On the last day of the Obama administration, outgoing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel Ashe issued Director’s Order No. 219, “Use of Nontoxic Ammunition and Fishing Tackle.”
The Jan. 19 order says, in part, that the service will collaborate with state fish and wildlife agencies to “require the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement or health and safety issues.”
The order also states that use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle presents an ongoing risk of lead poisoning to terrestrial migratory birds and waterbirds.
Does that mean that Arkansans who hunt doves can’t use their lead or lead alloy ammunition this year? What about fishermen? Can they use lead sinkers?
Jeff Crow, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Wednesday that the order surprised wildlife services in Arkansas and other states. The agency has questions and concerns about the order, and it has not yet had time to sit down with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to dig into what it means.
Since 1991, federal law 50 CFR 20.108 “Nontoxic shot zones” has banned the use of lead ammunition in the hunting of waterfowl and coots. Those restrictions are credited with helping to stem drastic drops in bird populations, but eagles and other meat-eating birds are still dying of lead poisoning.
“Right now on our federal refuges, lead shot, for example on small game animals, is not allowed. It’s prohibited and it’s been prohibited statewide for waterfowl,” commission Assistant Deputy Director Chris Colclasure said.
“The big thing with this new director’s order will be how that relates to bullets for other game animals and then the fishing tackle, lead fishing weights.” And for dove hunters.
Under the regulations spelled out in the 2016-2017 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook, lead is not banned in fishing tackle and ammunition, but lead-inclusive items may not be used in wildlife management areas on federal land that require nontoxic ammunition. In fact, lead or lead alloy ammo is required when hunting with certain handguns, according to the guidebook.
Hunters consult that guidebook, and anglers look to the annual Arkansas Fishing Guidebook to make sure their actions and gear are legal. Both 2017 editions are already in print. As in past years, the only mention of lead in the fishing book is a warning not to put lead sinkers in the mouth, to wash hands after using them and to call the Arkansas Department of Health if you suspect poisoning.
Crow said that sportsmen can rely on the rules spelled out in those books for 2017.
“According to the director’s order under this phase-in, it would be January 2022 before it became completely intact, or implemented,” Crow said.
“That being said, this is also a new administration coming on, new leadership in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and there is a lot of concern on the part of the states that we didn’t really feel like we had a whole lot of input before this order came out. We’re concerned about some of the impacts on some of our communities’ industries, in particular in rural Arkansas.”
“We’ll be working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they implement this,” Colclasure added. “That’s part of their plan, to work closely with the state, and we plan to work with them as they look to implement this order.”