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Legislature takes aim at lead shot ban

By Jonathan Mohr
Pat O’Boyle, right, and his grandson, Max Rabidue, testify before the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee March 16 on HF3209, a bill that would prohibit adoption of rules limiting use of lead shot. Photo by Andrew VonBank

A Department of Natural Resources proposal that would ban the use of lead shot on wildlife management areas in certain parts of the state was met with a bill Wednesday that would shoot it down.

Chair of the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee, Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar), sponsors HF3209, which would prohibit the DNR from adopting rules that further restrict the use of lead shot.

Discussion of HF3209 in House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee

Hackbarth said such a ban had been attempted in the past but had failed in the Legislature, and he viewed using the rulemaking process to enact the ban as a way to circumvent lawmakers.

“I think that’s a little offensive, actually,” Hackbarth said. “I think this has to go through the Legislature.”

The DNR proposal would require the use of nontoxic shot when hunting small game on certain wildlife management areas in farmland sections of the state, or when hunting rails or common snipe.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier told the committee the lead shot ban is part of an effort to properly manage these areas over the long-term for public hunting and control the accumulation of lead on them.

“These are the crown jewels within our hunting system that are going to be there forever,” Meier said. “When our children’s, children’s, children are there, what will those fields and WMAs look like?”

A number of testifiers spoke both for and against the bill, which was approved on an 11-3 roll-call vote and referred to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. There is no Senate companion.

Most agreed lead is harmful, but several supporters of the bill said scientific evidence does not show lead shot harms entire wildlife populations. They also argued the ban would make hunting more expensive, and some thought it could open the door to further regulation of hunting in the future.

Opponents of the bill, several of whom were hunters themselves, said the ban was needed to help limit the impact of a dangerous element from the ecosystem – in the same way lead paint and lead batteries are being removed.  

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