American hunters and fisherman are pushing back against a proposed rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would prohibit the use of lead bullets and fishing weights on eight national wildlife refuges in two years.
“In this proposed rule, Blackwater, Chincoteague, Eastern Neck, Erie, Great Thicket, Patuxent Research Refuge, Rachel Carson, and Wallops Island NWRs are each proposing a non-lead requirement, which would take effect on September 1, 2026, if we adopt them as part of a final rule,” according to the summary of the proposed rule.
A prominent hunting advocate, however, is up in arms — so to speak — because, he says, the Biden administration is “ignoring the need for scientific evidence” in proposing such a major change to U.S. hunting rules.
“This is the latest example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service creating rules that punish hunters, threaten conservation funding and advance special interests without sound scientific evidence that traditional lead ammunition cause is causing detrimental wildlife population impacts,” Lawrence Keane, the senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Fox News.
“This administration is ignoring its promise to ‘follow the science,’” he said. “In fact, it is ignoring the need for scientific evidence in order to advance an anti-gun and anti-hunting agenda.”
The proposal from Fish and Wildlife claims four times to be “based on the best available science,” without ever citing what science, exactly, it refers to.
Executive Order 13563, promulgated during President Barack Obama’s second term and available here, requires that U.S. regulations must be “be based on the best available science,” but does not define the term.
Fox noted that last year’s annual hunting and fishing rule banned the use of lead ammunition in Indiana’s Patoka National Wildlife Refuge. This year’s rule, however, makes no reference to any effect — or even any study of possible effects — that the rule might or might not have had there.
At the same time, the proposal states — deceptively, it would appear — that U.S. Fish and Wildlife desires to “expand hunting opportunities” and “increase access for hunters and anglers on Service lands and waters” while reducing the “regulatory burden on the public.”
“As we have stated in our industry position statement, restrictions on lead fishing tackle must be based on sound science documenting that lead tackle has an impact on specific wildlife populations and developed in conjunction with state fish and wildlife agencies,” American Sportfishing Association vice president of government affairs Mike Leonard told Fox. “We have repeatedly sought that evidence from USFWS but have yet to receive it.”
In November, the Biden administration settled a lawsuit with the radical environmentalists of the Center for Biological Diversity over a Trump-era expansion of hunting and fishing on 2.3 million acres of federal land.
That settlement including a promise by Fish and Wildlife to expand the prohibition of lead ammunition in its 2023-2024 rule — a tacit admission by the Biden administration that such a prohibition would limit, rather than expand, hunting on federal lands.
The department will accept comments on the proposed rule through August 22, 2023. Readers mail comments to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–HQ–NWRS–2023–0038, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: PRB (JAO/3W), Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
Alternatively, readers can follow these instructions, published with the proposed rule:
“Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, type in FWS–HQ–NWRS–2023–0038, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting screen, find the correct document and submit a comment by clicking on ‘Comment.’”