Lummis And Barrasso Call Lead Ammunition Ban “Activist-Driven Nonsense”

Wyoming’s U.S. senators joined an ongoing battle to stop the ban of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands, claiming the effort’s nothing but “activist-driven nonsense” and would unjustly punish Wyoming hunters and anglers.

Mark Heinz

April 20, 20234 min read

Wyoming U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso are both supporting a bill to halt federal land management agencies from enacting bans on lead ammunition.
Wyoming U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso are both supporting a bill to halt federal land management agencies from enacting bans on lead ammunition. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyomingites should be free to keep lead in their ammunition cases and fishing tackle boxes, both Cowboy State U.S. senators announced Thursday.

Wyoming Republican Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso announced that they’re cosponsoring a bill introduced by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, to halt federal land management agencies from implementing bans on lead ammunition and fishing tackle.

Wyomingites Weigh In On Lead

“Attempts to ban traditional lead ammo and tackle are activist-driven nonsense with no scientific basis,” Lummis said in the joint announcement. “Hunters and anglers have been feeding their families off the land since before Wyoming was a state, and they do not need activists who have never baited a hook or fired a gun telling them how to do it.”

Barrasso was blunt in his reaction.

“The Biden administration is once again attacking our Wyoming way of life,” he said.

The Second Amendment rights group Gun Owners of America also continues to oppose bans on lead ammunition and supports the bill, spokesman Mark Jones of Buffalo told Cowboy State Daily.

“It’s just another example of executive action that (President) Biden is trying to take in order to go around Congress,” he said.

Avid hunter Bryan Bedrosian of Jackson is a leader of “Sporting Lead-Free.” That group encourages hunters to consider alternatives to lead ammunition – such as rifle cartridges loaded with copper bullets.

However, the group steers clear of politics, he told Cowboy State Daily.

“As a non-legislative initiative, Sporting Lead-Free doesn't comment on any proposed regulations,” he said. “We focus on education and outreach and are always happy to chat about how folks can learn more about the issue and their options.” 

Bedrosian also is the conservation director at the Teton Raptor Center. He previously told Cowboy State Daily that in areas where non-lead hunting ammunition has become popular, the amount of lead contamination and poisoning detected in golden eagles and other raptors is down significantly.

Drawn-Out Controversy

The tussle over lead ammunition and tackle has been ongoing for nearly a year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in June 2022 published a notice of “proposed rulemaking” in the federal register, calling for a lead ban on federal wildlife refuges.

Daines’ bill would block the USFWS from implementing such bans. It also would prohibit the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management banning lead on the public lands that they manage.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups support banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle. They have claimed that lead poisoning is a significant threat to raptors and other wildlife that might eat the gut piles of big game animals killed by hunters using lead bullets. And aquatic birds and other wildlife swallow lead sinkers that fall off angler’s lines.

However, GOA claims those fears are unfounded, Jones said.

Some studies cited in GOA literature on the topic have demonstrated that while individual birds or animals might contract lead poisoning, it’s not a threat to wildlife populations in general, he said.

Instead, lead bans will only hurt hunters and recreational shooters because copper ammunition and other alternatives are too expensive for many people to buy in bulk, Jones said.  

Shotgun Lead Banned Long Ago

A previous lead ammunition ban – for waterfowl hunting – was successful.

Lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991. That ban was prompted by concerns that bald eagles consuming the carcasses of waterfowl that hunters had shot, but lost, was poisoning them. There also was concern that ducks and geese were swallowing spent lead shot as they foraged in fields or shallow water where hunters had been shooting.

Since then, waterfowl hunters have used shotgun shells loaded with pellets made from other metals, such as steel or bismuth.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter