While organizations, lawmakers, and agency staff have tried to encourage legislation to phase out the use of lead hunting ammunition and lead fishing tackle, both at the federal level and in individual states, progress has come in fits and starts. Nothing as impactful as the phase-out of lead shot for hunting waterfowl species (1991) has happened.
At the Federal Level
At the end of President Obama’s term in office, then Fish & Wildlife Service Director Ashe issued a director’s order that established procedures and a timeline for expanding the use of non-toxic ammo and fishing tackle on FWS lands. That order was rescinded by the next FWS Director, Zinke.
Even without this rescinded order, FWS does publish station-specific hunting and sport fishing regulations annually. At this link you can read the 2022-2023 Station-Specific Regulations for FWS refuges. “Finally, while the Service continues to evaluate the future of lead use in hunting and fishing on Service lands and waters, we do not plan to offer any hunting and fishing opportunities that would allow for the indefinite use of lead ammunition and tackle on the refuges included in this year’s rulemaking. In this final rule, Patoka River NWR will require non-lead ammunition and tackle by fall 2026, and this refuge-specific regulation will take effect on September 1, 2026. As part of the 2023-2024 proposed rule, Blackwater, Chincoteague, Eastern Neck, Erie, Great Thicket, Patuxent Research Refuge, Rachel Carson, and Wallops Island NWRs will propose a non-lead requirement, which would take effect on September 1, 2026.” Change is slow, but there is change.
At the State and County Level
Change is slow. For this reason, SOAR continues to advocate for the personal choice of going non-toxic in hunting and fishing activities. SOAR tries to “lead by example” and provide steel shot and copper slugs for youth-focused hunts and trap shooting activities. SOAR often talks about gifting your favorite hunter with nontoxic ammunition in the same caliber / shot size they have been using. Check out this page on SOAR’s website for ways “I can help!”
In Iowa, there may be a “trickle up” of the idea! Here we have a local conservation system (Iowa’s County Conservation System) that manages more land than our Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Several of these county conservation boards have passed local rules for hunting on these county-managed lands. Here is one example from Story County, Iowa in 2018. If you live in Iowa, the best way to know if your county’s conservation board has enacted site specific ammunition and tackle rules, is to ask.
While it may be hard to impact legislation, what can you do locally that helps individuals understand the risks of lead hunting ammunition to the environment, vulnerable animal species, and women, children, and families?