- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The American Sportfishing Association, an Alexandria-based trade group, isn’t happy with an arbitrary decision by the National Park Service that would ban the use of lead components in fishing tackle in all national parks by 2010. The ban also would include lead component ammunition used by hunters.

An official with the trade group said it was surprised and dismayed by the announcement.

“Their intention to eliminate the use of lead in fishing tackle in national parks was made without prior consultation of the sportfishing industry or the millions of recreational anglers who fish within the national park system,” ASA vice president Gordon Robertson said.

Robertson is particularly upset with the move because in a Jan. 21 executive memo by President Barack Obama to federal agency and department heads, the president made it clear that he wants the federal government to be “transparent, participatory and collaborative” and that “executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.”

Naturally, all 60 million American sport anglers would appreciate it if government employees were to heed the president’s order.

For example, a lead ban would include fishermen’s slip sinkers, heads of spinnerbaits and jigs, lead-based eyes on certain fly fishing poppers and streamers, any lead sinkers used by bait dunkers and tackle items.

What bothers the sportfishing group and various shooting organizations is the quiet way the park service went about the lead ban. Normally, user groups might have been notified about such changes and would have been invited to discuss the plans, which can affect so many Americans.

“The NPS policy announcement does not explain how this decision was reached, why it may be necessary or how this rule will be implemented,” Robertson said. “To our knowledge, there has been no proposed rule, nor any opportunity for public comment. We request that the NPS withdraw this proposal and discuss the rationale for it with the appropriate stakeholders before taking further action.”

However, the park service said visitors and wildlife have something to cheer about regarding the agency’s “stepped-up efforts to reduce lead” in national park environments.

“Our goal is to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in parks,” National Park Service acting director Dan Wenk said. “We want to take a leadership role in removing lead from the environment.”

This effort would include various activities, such as the culling of wildlife or the dispatching of wounded or sick animals. Rangers would have to use nonlead ammunition to “prevent environmental contamination as well as lead poisoning of scavenger species who may eventually feed upon the carcass,” Wenk said.

The park service said nontoxic substitutes for lead, such as tungsten, copper and steel, are widely available.

The parks people cited California and Arizona, which have implemented bans on lead ammunition to facilitate California condor recovery. They also mentioned Yellowstone National Park, where restrictions on lead fishing tackle have been in effect because officials believe the limitations will protect native species and their habitats.

Local angler hooks world record - Robert LaVey, a Prince Frederick, Md., angler who recently fished the fabulous Sibun River in Belize, now is in the record books of the International Game Fish Association. LaVey caught a 6-pound line class world record cubera snapper that weighed 27 1/2 pounds. Rebecca Wright of the association’s record department verified the catch of the 38-inch-long cubera snapper, which inhaled a live bait mullet. LaVey’s 6-pound-test fishing line was the Ande brand, a popular monofilament used by saltwater anglers worldwide.

Look for Gene Mueller‘s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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