A bill moving through the New York State Assembly would ban all lead ammunition for hunting on state-owned land, and on land in the watershed of New York City’s water supply. With just a week left in the legislative session, Assembly Bill A5728 has passed out of committee and will be voted on by the full Senate and Assembly and could go to the governor’s desk before the session ends on June 10.
Currently, according to Glen Stratton, Chair of the New York chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the bill is likely to pass. Although NYBHA encourages hunters to switch to non-lead ammunition if they choose (Stratton himself hunts deer and turkeys with non-lead), the group opposes the bill, as does the New York State Conservation Council.
Instead, NYBHA argues for voluntary lead reduction measures. In a statement, Stratton wrote: “. . . an outright ban would be a missed opportunity to engage with hunters in a constructive way. Efforts out West have shown that hunter education and a voluntary switch to non-lead yields lasting results. It also eliminates the potential for negative interactions with the folks enforcing our [environmental conservation] laws. Hunters have a proud tradition of conservation, and we hope that our efforts present an opportunity for them to have a say and a leadership role on this issue.”
One example of the kind of voluntary programs NYBHA supports took place in Arizona, where lead fragments in gut piles on the Kaibab Plateau posed a hazard to endangered condors. Currently, over 80 percent of Kaibab Plateau hunters take advantage of free non-toxic ammunition certificates, or, if they chose to shoot lead, they can enter raffles by removing gut piles from condor habitat and bringing them to a check station.
Stratton says initiatives like ammunition exchanges, in which hunters can trade lead ammo for non-toxic, or gut pile raffles could be part of a voluntary strategy in New York. Things like teaching about the environmental and ballistic benefits of non-lead ammo in hunter safety classes and perhaps reducing sales tax on non-lead ammunition could also help. “The bottom line is, we are all about wildlife conservation and human health and safety,” he says, “but we believe voluntary compliance will go further. If we can get hunters behind measures to shoot non-toxic ammo, we’ll be more successful. They will be successful.”
The NYBHA sent out an alert and call to action to its members on June 2. If you live in New York and would like to voice your opinion, contact your local representatives today or visit the NYBHA Take Action page through the link above.