Target: Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service
Goal: Ban hunters from using lead ammunition that poisons endangered and protected birds in national forests.
Wild birds are facing long-lasting and deadly consequences from the most popular material for ammunition–lead. The avian digestive system makes birds especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, causing birds to lose the ability to fly and to become lethargic and even partially paralyzed.
Waterfowl and seed-eating birds often mistakenly pick up lead pellets while scavengers such as golden eagles and California condors ingest fragments when they eat the carcasses of animals killed by lead bullets. Condors have been particularly affected by lead poisoning, their population dropping to 22 individuals in 1982. Since then, captive breeding programs and monitoring of released condors have allowed their population to rise. However, these birds, like many others, continue to suffer from lead poisoning.
Lead ammunition is especially dangerous because the bullets break apart on impact, making it extremely easy for scavengers to ingest tiny lead fragments that can quickly build to toxic levels. Non-lead alternatives such as solid copper bullets are designed to remain in one easily removable piece.
Since 1991, there has been a federal ban on using lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl after studies revealed the amount of lead being ingested by waterfowl and seeping into the groundwater. As further research has uncovered the extent of the danger, many areas have begun to require non-lead ammunition locally. However, the U.S. Forest Service has been noticeably lax in making any moves to ban lead.
Instead of banning lead ammunition, the U.S. Forest Service provides non-lead ammunition at a limited number of locations and encourages hunters to voluntarily stop using the toxic lead bullets. These optional programs have seen some success and were a useful first step. However, now that science and experience have shown the importance of using only non-lead ammunition, a more proactive stance is necessary.
The lands protected by the U.S. Forest Service are some of the most beautiful and biologically diverse in the country, and are home to dozens of threatened and endangered animals. Sign the petition below to remind the U.S. Forest Service that they have a duty to protect wild birds by banning lead ammunition.
Dear Mr. Tidwell,
Lead poisoning is a serious and often fatal condition for birds, and it has driven several species, including the California condor, to the brink of extinction. Studies have shown that the main cause of this poisoning is from the use of lead bullets by hunters. These bullets break apart upon impact, forming tiny fragments that can be ingested by scavengers.
The U.S. Forest Service already faces lawsuits regarding their failure to ban lead ammunition in the range of the California condor. You have a responsibility to ban the use of all lead ammunition within national forests. Please move to do so as soon as possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Chuck Szmurlo