The new, kinder, gentler Department of Fish and Wildlife has proved it is an acrobatic agency. It stabbed both hunters and itself in the back Monday this week when Chuck Bonham, the vegetarian DFW director, sent a letter to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon saying the agency supported Rendon’s bill (AB 711) that would ban all lead-based ammunition for hunting in the state.
Oh, Bonham qualified the support by asking for a couple of changes in the legislation, but the bill’s author ignored the request that would essentially give the DFW director a mandate to overrule the lead ban if non-lead ammunition wasn’t available for popular hunting calibers. But Rendon did change the bill to give the DFW a year longer to implement the change.
Then, on Friday, the bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and it will go to the floor for a final vote this coming week. The bill moved quickly arguably because of the state’s DFW’s support. I’m sure the legislators where preparing to tell constituents that if the state’s guardians of hunters and fishermen think the bill is a good idea, why should they listen to the howling mob outside their chambers that have come armed with facts and figures about the bills negative impacts.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is very blunt in saying the bill “will effectively ban hunting in California”
The NSSF’s statement said, “Proponents of the bill have argued that hunters could simply switch to non-lead ammunition, but alternative metals are classified as ëarmor piercing’ by the federal government and require a special permission to make, sell or possess. Thus far, the federal government has refused to grant permission” for the states to use this rifle and pistol ammunition for hunting. The feds have also not enforced a ban on solid copper bullets used across the country for hunting (and already mandated in California’s “condor zone”). But that is just another Obama executive order away from happening. This was the potential threat Bonham asked the legislature to address by giving him the power ñ and a legislative mandate ñ to continue to allow lead-based ammunition if this sort of rulemaking took place.
Bonham effectively said we support the science, but we want to be able to support hunters. That last part must have been mumbled. The only thing the legislature heard was “we support the science.” They didn’t change the bill to require the director to allow lead ammunition if all other ammunition was deemed “armor piercing” by the feds, but they did extend the implementation for a year.
There is a huge cross-section of the DFW’s scientific staff who do not support the statewide lead ban. That data just isn’t there to take such a drastic action. As most of you know, the existing lead ban has done absolutely nothing to improve the plight of the California condor, which precipitated the ban in the first place. The background levels of lead in condor blood continue to be excessive, and there continue to be deaths of the big birds due to lead. The proponents of the bill say we need a statewide ban to protect condors because hunters are not complying with the ban.
This is an outright lie. There has been research that shows that background lead levels in golden eagles and vultures in the no-lead zone have dropped to zero. While there was not definitive science hunter’s lead left in gut piles and carcasses was impacting either eagle or vulture populations or even causing significant bird deaths, the testing of these birds proves hunting compliance has been exceptional. It has been so good for eagles that none of the tested birds had lead any longer.
Well, maybe we should ban lead ammunition statewide to protect eagles and vultures and other scavenging animals, you might ask. Well, maybe, but the science isn’t there to support that yet. We have correlation that lead levels are down (gone, actually) in those birds, but not that lead levels were high enough to cause problems for the population in the first place. A science mantra: Correlation is not causation. So a statewide ban is simply bad science. It would be like banning all exposure to radiation because we know radiation can be bad in some instances. That move would cripple medical treatments and screenings.
But Bonham effectively told the legislature the science was all good. This guy is proving to be a huge, moronic puppet of the Governor’s office and animal rights community. The legislature could care less about the science of protecting wildlife, it is being driven by an anti-hunting agenda. This should be perfectly clear when it extends the implementation of the ban, but not the part that would assure hunting be allowed to continue.
“Both the Department of Fish and Wildlife and bill proponents, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have largely ignored concerns of ammunition manufacturers and the hunting community. While proponents talk publicly about an immediate concern for the health of wildlife ingesting traditional lead ammunition, delaying this bill makes that urgency argument moot,” said Lawrence Keane, vice-president and general counsel of the NSSF
“Instead, this legislation seems aimed at crippling California’s hunting community and industry and mission driven by organizations that want hunting banned.”
That is increasingly the only conclusion hunters and shooters can take from this exercise. The worst part is that the DFW has become complicit in promoting incomplete or bad science and the anti-hunting political agenda. Ironically, one of the groups most impacted economically by the lead ammunition ban would be the DFW itself. It stands to lose a significant portion of its budget if hunting were effectively banned in the state thought the loss in hunting license and tag sales and the federal tax revenue generated by an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and hunting gear sold in the state. It has stabbed itself and hunting in the back.
Another old clich’ fits here: Will the DFW have the same face after it cuts off its own nose? Nothing it does these days passes the smell test any longer so losing hunting and hunters might better represent the new DFW.