Zinke Trumps Lead, Overturns Obama-Era Ammo Ban

On his first day in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did away with President Obama’s lead ammunition ban.

secretary of the interior ryan zinke overturns lead ammo ban
Photo Courtesy U.S. Dept. of the Interior

After riding into his new Washington D.C. office on a horse yesterday (literally), Zinke got swiftly to work. He signed two secretarial orders, one of which overturned the Obama administration’s ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands.

The ban was among President Obama’s final acts before leaving office, but wasn’t set to take effect until 2022.

Lead Ammo Legal

The ban was a response to wildlife and conservation agencies’ claims that spent lead ammo poisoned birds and waterfowl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited reports that as many as 130 species of birds ingested lead ammunition, causing lead poisoning.

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Zinke, on signing Order 3346, noted that Pres. Obama’s order “was not mandated by any statutory or regulatory requirement.”

“Given these facts,” he wrote, “I conclude that the Order should be withdrawn.”

Zinke’s order does not address a federal ban on lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting. The federal government outlawed lead for waterfowl hunting in 1991, a controversial measure to this day. Some claim that law, which remains in effect, saves upwards of a million ducks each year from lead poisoning.

Immediately following Zinke’s order, the National Rifle Association applauded the move.

“The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement. “This was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community.”

The move predictably raised ire from conservation groups.

“Overturning the lead ammunition ban may win political points with a few special interests, but it could cost the lives of millions of birds and the health of families that rely on game to feed their families.” said Athan Manuel, public lands director for the Sierra Club. “Non-lead options are available, effective, cost-competitive, and most importantly safer.”

While this order makes the use of lead tackle and ammunition federally legal on public lands, states can still pass anti-lead legislation. California introduced its own ban in 2015 and it will become effective statewide in 2019.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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