Last week, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a statement saying that it intended to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in its parks by the end of 2010. Now, after heavy criticism from NRA and other hunting and fishing groups, NPS has backpedaled on its anti-lead announcement, saying Wednesday that the ban only applies to NPS employees and authorized agents of the park service.
The original announcement left little doubt that the ban would also apply to visitors to national parks—and it still may. Currently, the park service manages 61 properties that are open to hunting.
“Everything you could do before the announcement, you can still do today,” said Bert Frost, Associate Director of Natural Resource Stewardship & Science for the National Park Service. “You can still use lead shot and lead ammunition. The point of the announcement was to let the public know that internally we want to get away from lead-based products.”
Frost clarified the new policy at a lead working group meeting at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Arlington, Va. Frost called the roll-out of the announcement “bad,” stating that release of that information to the public was premature, even taking him by surprise.
“That press release was unfortunate,” he said. “We had a huge misstep there.”
Frost claimed that the new NPS policy is not an anti-hunting move, but the park service’s failure to open the plan for public comment has created widespread skepticism within the hunting community. Citing the park service’s role as protectors of the country’s natural and historical treasures, Frost said the reasoning behind the new policy is that NPS wants to “err on the side of caution” when it comes to releasing lead into the environment.
“This decision has been rumbling around for years,” Frost said. “It made sense internally to clean up our own act. I thought it was the smart thing to do.”
The NPS announcement offered no scientific evidence proving that the use of lead ammunition in hunting is causing environmental contamination or having any widespread negative impact on wildlife.
However, despite Frost’s statements, people who hunt and fish in national parks could still be banned from using lead-based products. The park service will continue to look at prohibiting the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle by visitors on a park-by-park basis, meaning that bans could still be instituted. But a public comment period would be required before any ban could go into effect. The original NPS announcement was widely criticized for a failure to solicit public input.
“It is safe to conclude that while it looks like NPS is backpedaling, they are actually pedaling forward as fast as they can to ban lead ammo and tackle,” said Susan Recce, NRA-ILA’s Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources.
The park service will use lead-free ammunition for such activities as dispatching of injured or sick wildlife and conducting its culling operations. Frost also said that NPS concessionaires can continue to distribute the lead products they have in stock to park service employees, but when those supplies run out, lead alternatives must be used, regardless of increased cost to the government.
The 2010 deadline for lead elimination has also been scratched from the plan.
To view the official NPS statement clarifying its lead rules, click here.