Senators Call on Biden Admin to Reject Refuge Settlement, Lead Ban

A bi-partisan coalition of 27 U.S. Senators recently signed a letter to U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams urging the service to reject calls by an extreme environmental organization to ban the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The senators’ letter echoes an earlier memo from 33 members of the U.S House of Representatives and a diverse coalition of more than 40 outdoor conservation and advocacy organizations led by the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, which opposed closed-door settlement talks between the Biden administration and Center for Biological Diversity. It comes as the USFWS has released draft rules for multiple refuges that phases out the use of all lead by sportsmen.

“Policies or actions that reduce or limit sportsmen activities necessarily implicate wildlife conservation programs by affecting state agencies’ revenue. Such policies or actions also handcuff wildlife managers by removing a critical conservation tool while needlessly alienating one of our original conservationists, sportsmen,” the lawmakers wrote. “Phasing-out lead ammo and tackle on wildlife refuges would disproportionately affect lower-income households and those that depend on hunting and fishing for their subsistence as lead alternatives are often more expensive. The impact of such a policy would be devastating to the sportsmen heritage in our states.”

“The Sportsmen’s Alliance and our partners are thankful for the backing of these senators urging Director Williams to remain steadfast in defending hunters, anglers and trappers – America’s most vested conservationists,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation.

In November 2021, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit over President Trump’s 2020 expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on 2.2 million acres within the refuge system. The litigious group alleges that hunting on refuges threatens endangered species because hunters trample critical habitat, through lead poisoning from spent ammunition and fishing tackle, and because grizzly bears could be mistakenly shot by hunters believing them to be black bears or in self-defense.

While any settlement between the two parties would result in undeniable losses for sportsmen, as well as financial gain for the radical organization known for its sue-and-settle tactics, early indications pointed to the Biden administration, through Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Director of Fish and Wildlife Martha Williams, negotiating over the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in the refuge.

On Wednesday, March 9, during a virtual Legal Committee meeting for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a Senior Attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior, stated that the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have discussed phasing out the use of lead on refuges – a decision that would impact millions of sportsmen nationwide.

A prohibition on the use of any lead could impact millions of sportsmen, both hunters and anglers, in every state in the country. Sinkers, jigs or other lures containing lead could be banned for fishing, while expensive and hard-to-find alternative ammunition would be the only resort for hunters.

The lawsuit seemed a long shot given the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, landmark legislation drafted and pushed through Congress by the Sportsmen’s Alliance and its partners, which ensured that hunting, fishing and trapping would occur on any refuge where it is compatible. The historic law has opened millions of acres to hunting as every Presidential administration since has touted expansion of opportunities within the system.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.