For Immediate Release, September 17, 2007
Contact: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Schwarzenegger Fires Fish and Game Commissioner in Effort to
Prevent Regulation of Toxic Lead Ammunition
Governor Expected to Veto Historic Condor Protection Legislation
SACRAMENTO, Calif.– Within a week of proclaiming that California Republicans need to “come back into the mainstream,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has undermined state conservation efforts by firing one of his own state Fish and Game Commissioners, at the bidding of the National Rifle Association and far-right Republican legislators. The governor last week forced the resignation of Commissioner Judd Hanna, a Republican and hunter whom he appointed in February, for his stance on the protection of endangered California condors from lead poisoning.
“The governor’s attempt to undermine the commission is shameful. He clearly removed a fair and impartial commissioner at the behest of the NRA and anti-conservation legislators to prevent the commission from passing regulations on lead ammunition,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Putting the condor on the state quarter isn’t good enough; the governor needs to sign the Condor Preservation Act into law, to ensure that condors do not continue to be poisoned by lead ammunition from hunting.”
Twenty-four Republican legislators recently demanded the governor remove Hanna from the commission for the transgressions of researching the lead-ammunition regulation issues before the commission and for living in Northern California. The real reason was pressure by the National Rifle Association, which adamantly opposes a proposal pending before the commission to require the use of non-lead ammunition within the range of the California condor. The governor sided with the NRA and fired Hanna, attempting to pressure the commission before it votes on the lead-ammunition issue.
At stake is an historic and significant protection measure for endangered California condors, a bill called the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act that would require hunters to use non-lead ammunition for hunting big game and coyotes within the California condor range in central and southern California, beginning July 1, 2008. It has passed both the state Senate and the state Assembly by comfortable margins, and Governor Schwarzenegger now has until October 22 to sign or veto the bill. The California Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission have opposed the legislation and urged Governor Schwarzenegger to use his veto, making patently false claims about the lead ban threatening to end all hunting in the state.
State Assemblyman Nava (D-Santa Barbara), author of the bill, called Hanna's resignation "tragic." Nava was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying, “I think what it says to other Fish and Game Commissioners is if they don't toe the [National Rifle Association] line, their jobs are in jeopardy. If this is all it takes to change the composition of the Fish and Game Commission, there's more stability in the Iraqi legislature.”
Former Commissioner Hanna, in a September 13 e-mail to his supporters and fellow commissioners, stated:
“The information that I have shared has been accumulated over the last 25 months of listening to public testimony, reading the science and studying the issue of lead poisoning in California Condors. I have done a thorough job and listened respectfully to all sides. The evidence is overwhelming. Lead from ammunition is the primary cause of illness and death in the endangered species, California Condor.”
“The matter at stake here is not my position on the Commission; it is the information itself: scientific data to support a thesis. The mission of the Commission has been deflected by a special interest group. Thus, an issue bearing on one of the Commission's most important mandates, protection of an endangered species, has been hijacked.”
“The Condor Preservation Act will significantly reduce lead poisoning of condors in California and is an important first step in getting lead out of the food chain,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Lead is an extremely toxic substance that we have sensibly removed from most of our environment, including water pipes, gasoline, paint, and cooking utensils. It only makes sense to protect our most imperiled wildlife from harmful lead exposure and also reduce the human-health risk.”
The Nava bill was introduced after a coalition of health and conservation organizations, hunters and American Indians launched a “Get the Lead Out” campaign to eliminate lead bullets from condor habitat. In 2004 the Center for Biological Diversity and other coalition partners petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to end the use of lead ammunition for hunting statewide, and in 2006 filed a lawsuit against the state for continuing to allow hunting with toxic lead ammunition that harms condors.
The Fish and Game Commission is currently considering several options requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting big-game mammals, non-game birds, and mammals, including potential regulations for the currently occupied condor range, the current and historic condor range, and statewide. Seventeen condors in California have suffered lead poisoning from feeding on carcasses of animals shot by hunters in recent months; the California condor is one of the world’s most endangered species, with only 127 of the birds flying free in the wild. Lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition in carcasses is the leading cause of death for reintroduced condors.
Safe, reliable non-lead bullets and shot made from copper and other materials are widely available for big-game hunting and perform as well or better than lead ammunition. Federal law already requires the use of non-lead shot when hunting waterfowl, due to widespread lead poisoning of both waterfowl and secondary poisoning of eagles.
More information about the lead poisoning threat can be found at www.savethecondors.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with 35,000 members dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org