- - Monday, October 28, 2013


The recent decision by California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to phase in a ban on the use of lead ammunition for hunting is a step in the right direction toward reducing lead contamination statewide (“California gun grab: Brown signs lead-ammo bill but vetoes ban on hunting rifles,” Web, Oct. 11).

It will assuredly and dramatically reduce the scope of lead-poisoned wildlife. The poster child for this effort is clearly one of America’s most iconic and threatened birds: the California condor.

The numbers tell the story. There are about 225 of these birds left in the wild, but lead poisoning continues to account for 50 percent of condor deaths among the necropsies performed since 1996 by the Peregrine Fund, an organization that has been leading the recovery effort for the species. In a perfect world, we could all accept as fact what hundreds of studies by well-respected institutions have shown: Lead ammunition is responsible for the poisoning deaths of millions of birds in the United States annually.

The preferred solution is, of course, a voluntarily switch to nonlead ammunition. That’s something that all of us in the wildlife-conservation community would applaud. We do hope that a voluntary approach can still work in other states and communities where such programs are objectively viewed.

The problem in the case of the condor is that the switch to nonlead ammunition has not been happening quickly enough. Clearly, something is broken when half the mortality of one of our most endangered birds is a result of lead poisoning — despite herculean efforts to round up as many condors as possible to test and treat those that are lead-poisoned but haven’t yet succumbed.

The hunting community has done a lot to promote better wildlife conservation over the years. In that spirit, California regulators gave the voluntary approach a fair chance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to ensure the survival of one of the world’s most imperiled bird species. Let’s hope the state can work out the few technical issues in the legislation. Those actions will no doubt save more condors and the many other species that would otherwise be poisoned by lead.


President, American Bird Conservancy


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