August 29, 2010

A Bullet, Dodged—and a Bogus "Hunters' Group"

A few days ago,  Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was accepting public comment on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to ban all ammunition and fishing tackle containing lead.

Tipped off by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (a trade group)  and the National Rifle Association (a membership group), the online outdoor media and bloggers immediately raised the alarm, such as this piece by Jim Shepherd of The Outdoor Wire:

There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having the claimed adverse impact on wildlife

Wildlife management is the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the 50 state wildlife agencies, not the EPA

A 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on blood levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk

By Friday,  August 27th, the EPA backed down on the ammo part, admitting that it lacked jurisdiction under the 1976 law.

Lead shot for waterfowling was banned in the 1980s. I think that there was a stronger scientific case made there. But banning all lead (even for the military?) would make both hunting and recreational target-shooting more expensive and thus less attractive. I am pretty sure that the CBD folks saw that as a plus.

So by the Friday, the CBD was crying in its beer, trying to make it sound as though all conservation groups were disheartened by the EPA's entirely legal response.

Now here is the weird part. I have been around the hunting-conservation world for a few years. I'm a member of the Colorado Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers--all membership groups with proven records.

But I have never heard of CBD's so-called hunters' group Project Gutpile. The name itself sounds like a bad joke. Its only Web presence is a blog, and the latest entry on that blog is ... surprise! ... the CBD's sad news release, verbatim.

Can you say "astroturfing," boys and girls?

It hurts the CBD's credibility when they have to create fake allies as well as conceal their real agenda.

Disclaimer: Through its lawsuits, the CBD indirectly got M. and  me a summer job with the BLM for a few years, back when we sorely needed the money. That story is here.

Still, this New Yorker profile (hat tip, Steve Bodio) describes CBD founder Kieran Suckling as "a trickster, philosopher, publicity hound, master strategist, and unapologetic pain in the ass," out to destroy all logging and ranching in the Southwest.

And hunting too, I am sure.


Darrell said...

Reading around on the web, I gather the EPA is still in it against lead fishing weights, and against lead wheel weights, which of course many reloaders use in making their ammo.

Holly Heyser said...

I heard about Project Gutpile when I was researching a story about the lead ban for NWTF's magazine, though I heard of it as a program designed to get hunters to voluntarily bury or remove gutpiles in condor country. My understanding was that it was the little-publicized and failed predecessor to California's lead ban in the condor zone.

I personally have given up lead ammo, except where required for target shooting (skeet). For me, it's a small thing I can do to try to make sure I don't cause collateral damage when I hunt. I'm a total softie - I admit it. But I think folks are going to be hard-pressed to show substantial threat to wildlife given the massive rebound we've seen in bald eagles and such. I'm pretty sure more raptors die of being hit by cars on our freeways than of ingesting lead ammunition.

That said, I think lead ammo's days are numbered because it's hard to defend it, and the non-hunting public doesn't care if it costs us more to shoot non-lead. And thanks to my wacky state, more non-lead alternatives are available, even now including rimfire. But I suspect this effort will take as long as the last one - I think it took 20 years to ban lead ammo for waterfowl hunting.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Stopping lead nationwide to save the condors seems like, forgive the expression, overkill.

Maybe someone could slaughter steers with spears to give them acceptable carrion.

Some bloggers elsewhere have suggested that lead alternatives, e.g., copper-jacketed steel, could fall afoul of laws against "armor-piercing" ammo in some jurisdictions.

I do not know if that is true, but it's out there.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Read Tom McIntyre's witty takedown of Anthony Prieto and Project Gutpile.

mdmnm said...

Thanks for the links and article, Chas. Hadn't seen any of this.