WASHINGTON Making life better for fish and wildlife and the people who hunt them lies at the heart of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, which is likely to be approved by the Senate on Monday. The bill covers everything from habitat conservation to transporting bows through national parks.
But though the bill enjoys broad, bipartisan support, some environmentalists are not happy with it. The bill ensures that lead can continue to be used in ammunition, which they say poisons wildlife, and it specifically says that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot regulate components “used in shot, bullets and other projectiles,” such as bullets and fishing tackle.
The wording aimed at the EPA is so broad that opponents say it could block the agency from regulating, for example, perchlorate, a component of explosives and rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in children and pregnant women and has been found in drinking water in 35 states.
The Sportsman’s Act, authored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is a collection of 17 provisions that would seem to have something for everyone.
The bill would boost the amount of available funds for conserving fish and wildlife and expand opportunities for hunters and anglers to target wild species. It would make it easier for the federal government to buy land to improve access to public lands for hunters and anglers.
But a dispute has emerged over the provision on lead. The Center for Biological Diversity and other advocacy groups have pushed unsuccessfully for the EPA to ban lead in hunting and fishing equipment.
Lead is a component of ammunition, as well as some fishing gear: At least 14,000 tons of lead is introduced into the environment every year by hunters and anglers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lead shot and tackle left on the ground or in waterways are consumed by birds and other wildlife, often with deadly results.
Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said critics were misinterpreting the bill’s environmental impact. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of lead ammunition in waterfowl hunting in 1991, he noted, and could take further action if needed.
“It shouldn’t be controversial for anybody,” Fosburgh said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service, not EPA, is the proper place to regulate lead.”