Greens Want Lead Ammo Kept Out of Forests

     PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) – Environmentalists sued the U.S. Forest Service, claiming its refusal to ban lead ammunition on public land near the Grand Canyon subjects endangered California condors and other wildlife to toxic bullets.
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     The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council seek an injunction prohibiting the use of lead ammunition in the 1.6 million-acre Kaibab National Forest, which borders the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona. Seventy-three free-flying condors live in the area, where they were introduced several years ago in a project to save the species.
     The groups say that 45 to 95 percent of the condor population tests positive for lead exposure every year.
     “Lead ingestion and poisoning from ammunition sources has been documented in many avian predators and scavengers that inhabit Forest Service land in Arizona, such as California condors, bald and golden eagles, northern goshawks, ferruginous hawks, turkey vultures, and common ravens,” the complaint states. “Many bird species are exposed to spent lead ammunition when they consume mammals that have been shot with lead ammunition but not retrieved and later die in the wild. These ‘shot but not retrieved’ carcasses are a food source for wild, free-ranging California condors in Arizona.”
     The groups add: “The ingestion of spent lead ammunition, even in minute amounts, by wildlife causes many adverse behavioral, physiological and biochemical health effects, including seizures, lethargy, progressive weakness, reluctance to fly or inability to sustain flight, weight loss leading to emaciation, and death. The existence of such adverse health effects makes the wildlife experiencing them more susceptible to other forms of mortality, such as predation.”
     The Center For Biological Diversity filed a similar lawsuit in the District of Columbia. There, it seeks judicial review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to regulate the use of lead ammunition on public lands.
     The National Rifle Association and other groups opposed to such regulation have intervened in the case.
     Since 2005, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has offered a free box of copper bullets to hunters to encourage a voluntary change in behavior, with some success. The agency told Courthouse News in April that about 90 percent of permit-holders used the nontoxic bullets.
     But the Center for Biological Diversity said in statement that “lead ammo is still used by some hunters, leaving hundreds of lead-tainted deer carcasses, plus an unknown number of lead-contaminated carcasses of other game, in the Kaibab every year.”
     The plaintiffs sued the agency for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. They are represented by Kevin Cassidy, of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Norwell, Mass.

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