For Immediate Release, February 3, 2014

Contact: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351 or

Republicans Push Lead Poisoning of Wildlife Disguised as "Sportsmen's Heritage Act"

Legislation Would Also Roll Back Public-lands Protection, Promote Polar Bear Trophy Hunting

WASHINGTON— The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on H.R. 3590, the misnamed “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act.” Under the guise of expanding hunting and fishing access on public lands, the Republican-supported bill aims to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting millions of birds and other animals from lead poisoning. The extremist legislation also contains provisions to undermine the Wilderness Act, dispense with environmental review for projects on national wildlife refuges, and promote polar bear hunting.

“Another cynical assault by House Republicans to roll back protections for public lands and wildlife,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This supposed ‘sportsmen’s legislation’ would actually jeopardize the health of hunters, promote needless lead poisoning of our wildlife, and prevent hunters, anglers and other members of the public from weighing in on decisions about how to manage 150 million acres of federal land and water.”

H.R. 3590 seeks to exempt toxic lead in ammunition and fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law that regulates toxic substances. The EPA is currently allowed to regulate or ban any chemical substance for a particular use, including the lead used in shot and bullets. Affordable, effective nontoxic alternatives exist for lead ammunition and lead sinkers for all hunting and fishing activities.

Spent lead from hunting is a widespread killer of more than 75 species of birds such as bald eagles, endangered condors, loons and swans, and nearly 50 mammals. More than 265 organizations in 40 states have been pressuring the EPA to enact federal rules requiring use of nontoxic bullets and shot for hunting and shooting sports.

“There are powerful reasons we banned toxic lead from gasoline, plumbing and paint — lead is a known neurotoxin that endangers the health of hunters and their families and painfully kills bald eagles and other wildlife,” said Snape.

H.R. 3590 would also exempt all national wildlife refuge management decisions from review and public disclosure under the National Environmental Policy Act and allow the import of polar bear “trophies” from Canada. The Republican-controlled House approved similar “Sportsmen’s Act” legislation in 2012 by a vote of 274-146, but the bill was stopped in the Senate.

Despite being banned in 1992 for hunting waterfowl, spent lead shotgun pellets from other hunting uses continue to be frequently ingested by waterfowl. Many birds also consume lead-based fishing tackle lost in lakes and rivers, often with deadly consequences. Birds and animals are also poisoned when scavenging on carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments. More than 500 scientific papers have documented the dangers to wildlife from lead exposure. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calculates that more than 14,000 tons of toxic lead shot is deposited in the environment each year in the United States by upland bird hunting alone.

Lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Recent scientific studies show that hunters have higher lead levels in their bloodstream, and more associated health problems, than the public at large. Some state health agencies have recalled venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.

There are many alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. More than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of nonlead bullets and shot made of steel, copper and alloys of other metals, with satisfactory-to-superior ballistics. A recent study debunks claims that price and availability of nonlead ammunition could preclude switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting. Researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers.

Hunters in areas with lead ammunition restrictions have transitioned to hunting with nontoxic bullets. There has been no decrease in game tags or hunting activity since state requirements for nonlead hunting went into effect in significant portions of Southern California in 2008 to protect condors from lead poisoning. California recently passed legislation to transition to lead-free hunting statewide by 2019.

Learn more about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

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