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but still reviewing fishing sinkers

by Jim Shepherd


On Aug. 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition that called for a nationwide ban on the production and distribution of lead in ammunition.

In his explanation of the ruling, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Steve Owens said the reasoning behind the decision was simple:

“EPA reached this decision,” he wrote, “because the agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).” It was the clause following that explanation that has the firearms industry celebrating: “...nor is the agency seeking such authority.”

The back story on a ruling that denied the petition filed by the American Bird Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity is more interesting than the short statement from Owens.

It is considerably deeper than just a jurisdictional decision. It may, in fact, point to the idea that it might not be too late to restore some sanity to the increasing encroachment of the federal government into our lives.

On Aug. 25 – just two days before the petition was denied – the firearms industry issued an unprecedented call to action, asking shooters across the country to let the EPA know that a ruling banning lead would be viewed as a political, not a scientific decision.

In fact, language many of us provided our readers, members or friends from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) stated that such a decision would be based on something other than demonstrable scientific findings.

By Friday, I had received several hundred emails from our readers, telling me they had answered the call and commented on the petition. Many of you also inspired your friends to comment as well, spreading the message that each of us had the opportunity to tell one governmental agency that we were actually watching their actions.

Despite the fact the EPA characterized the petition as “one of hundreds of petitions submitted to EPA by outside groups each year,” it was one out of those hundreds that elicited tens of thousands of comments only hours after the opening of the public comment period.

It was also unique in its generating a clarifying statement from the EPA that said that while the agency was taking plenty of actions to address major sources of lead in our society, EPA “was not and is not considering taking action on whether the lead content in hunting ammunition poses an undue threat to wildlife.”

For shooters, whatever their application of a firearm, the decision has laid to rest (at least for now) a fear that has existed inside the industry for some time – that the administration would find a way to move against guns that didn’t employ what has been demonstrably proven to be the political suicide in most of the nation – gun bans.

This EPA decision on ammunition, however, is only one piece of what is a remarkably complex interrelation between individual rights and the outdoors. The same statement being celebrated as a win for the firearms industry should also serve as a call to action for anglers to make their voices heard as well.

“As there are no similar jurisdictional issues relating to the agency’s authority over fishing sinkers,” the statement reads, “EPA – as required by law – will continue formally reviewing a second part of the petition related to lead fishing sinkers.”

The EPA accepted comment on the fishing tackle petition until Sept. 15. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), along with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, submitted comments to the EPA requesting that the petition to ban lead in all fishing gear be denied.

The petition, filed on Aug. 23 by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other organizations, cites the impact on waterbirds as the main reason for the requested ban.

A similar petition to ban lead in fishing tackle was presented to the EPA in 1992. In 1994, EPA abandoned its proposed rule after finding that the impact of lead did not present a threat to any bird population; that the economic impact was significant; and that the proposed rule was socially unacceptable.

“Each of those findings remains valid today,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “The petitioners have presented little credible evidence to suggest that lead in recreational fishing products is threatening the health of either humans or wildlife. Substantive evidence about the impact of lead on waterbird populations – a central theme of the petition – is glaringly absent.”

Comments to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and members of Congress may be made submitted through www.KeepAmericaFishing.org.