Ryan Zinke, in one of his first acts as the newly seated secretary of Interior, overturned a much-hated and twelfth-hour Barack Obama-era ban on lead ammunition in national parks and wildlife refuges.
Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3346, repealing a directive put in place by Obama to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that prohibited hunters from using lead ammo on the public lands. Obama’s directive was issued just one day before President Donald Trump took office.
Zinke also signed another order that expands the access of hunters and fishers on federal properties, and gives recreational users more freedoms.
“Outdoor recreation is about both our heritage and our economy,” Zinke said in a statement. “This package of secretarial orders will expand access for outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is heard.”
Obama’s ban on lead ammunition came at the insistence of environmental and animal-rights groups’ members who said the lead was poisoning for land and beast alike.
The Center for Biological Diversity, for examples, said up to 20 million birds and other animals die of lead poisoning each year from the 100,000 tons of lead left on lands by hunters and fishers, as well as other sports enthusiasts.
One major concern of environmentalists: the lead seeps into the ground and taints not just nearby plant life, but also water sources used by animals.
“There’s no good reason to be using toxic ammunition lead,” said Jonathan Evans, the environmental health legal director for CBD, to the Huffington Post.
The National Rifle Association, however, along with other Second Amendment rights groups, said lead-free ammunition is much more expensive and more difficult to obtain than lead ammo.
The NRA also refuted Obama’s reasons for the ban, saying there’s no factual evidence birds and other wildlife forms have been dying in mass numbers due to lead bullets.
“The fact is,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, “that traditional ammunition does not pose a significant population-level risk for wildlife. On behalf of the five million members of the NRA and tens of millions of American sportsmen, we thank Secretary Zinke for eliminating this arbitrary attack on our hunting heritage.”
It’s not just the NRA that supported Zinke.
National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O’Mara, whose group actually supports non-toxic options for hunting and fishing – from ammunition to weights used by fishermen to cast into deeper waters – nonetheless stood by Zinke and cheered his signing of the order.
“Having less lead in the water and soil is better for wildlife,” O’Mara said to the Huffington Post. “But the best way to do this is not through a policy in the last few days of an administration, but to have a science-based collaborative process with sportsmen and states that comes to a solution.”
O’Mara also acknowledged that “most sportsmen want the same outcome” as environmentalists, “which is healthier wildlife,” and then added, to the news outlet: “But the question is the best way to get there is to make sure that the outdoor experience isn’t harmful in the short term.”