April 9, 2015

CA adopts final rules for eliminating lead hunting ammunition to protect wildlife and health

The time has come and the lead is out! This week the California Fish & Game Commission adopted the final regulations that will begin the phase-in of implementation of AB711, California’s law requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for all taking of wildlife in the state. The phase-in will be complete by 2019, at which point California will officially be lead-free for hunting statewide.

In June 2013 the California State Assembly voted in favor of the bill that would require the use of non-lead ammunition throughout the state. In September 2013, the entire State Legislature voted to pass AB711. In October of that year, Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic legislation into law. As one of several organizations that advocated for the bill, it has been a long fight for us here at Defenders, and we couldn’t be more proud of the outcome.

Why are we so proud? This is a huge victory for the health, safety and long-term well-being of people, wildlife and our environment. Lead is toxic and we have known for decades that it can cause severe nervous system damage and even death. We have removed it from household products because of the effects of exposure to humans, including brain damage, learning problems and slowed growth.

Lead can and does have the same and sometimes even worse impacts on wildlife. In wildlife, lead poisoning causes an agonizing death through paralysis and starvation. Lead in the environment pollutes waterways and makes drinking water unsafe for people and wildlife. Lead ammunition is one of the main sources of this poison left in the environment.

Lead bullets often shatter into numerous small fragments inside targeted game animals, posing threats to human health when consumed in game meat and also to wildlife scavengers that consume gut piles of game animals that are left behind on the ground. Some animals also ingest lead when foraging in fields and pick up spent ammunition mistakenly.

In California, our endangered California condors have been most noticeably impacted by ingesting lead, along with other large birds of prey like golden eagles and myriad other species. Fortunately, now that our state leaders have recognized the dangers posed by lead ammunition and the availability of cost and performance-comparable alternatives to it, our endangered wildlife will have one less threat to their recovery.

We are so excited to see the phasing in of this landmark law in California, and we hope that other states across the country will follow California’s lead in getting the lead out.

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