Ventura, California—On August 8, 2012, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) rejected a proposed expansion of the ban on the use of lead ammunition. The proposed lead ammunition ban would have extended the existing AB 821 lead ammunition ban in the “Condor Zone,” to include hunting in State Wildlife Areas, Ecological Reserves and for depredation hunts.
After reviewing past discussions and information alleged to support the expansion of lead ammunition bans in California, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Audubon Society (Audubon) both presented new information on the issue, and the Commission rejected the proposed expansion and abandoned any attempt for a vote to “go to notice” on the proposed regulations, stopping the lead ban in its tracks.
The proponents for the lead ammunition ban relied on recent publications by UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz researchers to support their desired expansion, even though they provide contradictory conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the AB 821 lead ammunition ban. UC Davis researchers, Terra R. Kelly and Christine K. Johnson published two studies that purported to show that golden eagles and turkey vultures have a significantly higher blood-lead level during hunting season in comparison to the off-season, and that lead exposure in both species declined significantly after the implementation of the AB 821 lead ammunition ban.
But NRA’s presentation convinced the Commissioners that the AB 821 lead ammunition ban was ineffective. NRA obtained and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of public records and data and presented the findings to the Commission. NRA showed how the studies were fatally flawed, and how the real data actually showed the opposite—that blood-lead levels not only remained static, but actually slightly increased after AB 821 was implemented. NRA also obtained information regarding the Department’s own law enforcement survey, which indicated that 99% of all hunters were found to be in compliance with the lead ammunition ban.
UC Santa Cruz researchers Myra Finkelstein and Donald Smith recently published a paper that admitted that the AB 821 ban on hunters’ lead ammunition in the “Condor Zone” has had no effect on reducing condor blood-lead levels. But, they insist that their research supports their conclusion that condor lead exposure and poisoning is due to hunters’ lead ammunition. The NRA’s prosecutor showed that their conclusions are unfounded.
The UC Santa Cruz researchers’ latest publication purported to show that isotopic ratios of lead found in the blood of condors matched the lead isotopic ratios of lead found in ammunition. The researchers again used the discredited isotopic compositional analysis to claim that the isotopic ratios of lead from the captive condors fall within background range of lead in the California environment, while free-flying condors had lead isotopic ratios that more closely matched hunters’ lead ammunition.
NRA again analyzed public records and data, and peer-reviewed papers, including the UC authors’ own publications, and showed that the most recent article was based on data that was “cherry picked” to reach their predetermined conclusions. Indeed, the researchers’ own conclusions in earlier publications clearly contradicted their most recent conclusions regarding the isotopic ratio range for lead in ammunition and paint.
After NRA and National Audubon Society gave their respective presentations, Commissioners were convinced that lead ammunition is not the sole contributor to lead exposure in wildlife. Alternative sources, such as lead paint, gasoline and pesticides also play a role in lead exposure and poisoning in wildlife. In response, Commissioners decided to form a committee to get to the bottom of the scientific debate. The committee will include Commission President Jim Kellogg, Commissioner Michael Sutton, and scientists from both the NRA and Audubon.
The NRA has been spearheading an effort to gather information and science to oppose claims by environmental groups seeking to limit or ban recreational shooting, hunting and lead ammunition. To assist in these efforts, NRA has engaged the expertise of environmental experts and scientists, as well as the civil rights and environmental law firm of Michel & Associates, P.C. The efforts include coordinating with interested parties to plan, research, conduct clerical work, and make numerous formal requests for documents from government agencies through Public Records Act and Freedom of Information Act requests. NRA’s team has obtained and analyzed over one hundred thousand pages of public records concerning information relied on to propose and allegedly support recreational shooting, hunting and lead ammunition bans, including “original data” and internal documents not previously obtained or reviewed by independent analysts or the public at large.
The effort has already resulted in the rejection of several proposed and ill-conceived bans throughout the United States.