A bill passed by the California Senate and General Assembly earlier this week that would ban the use of lead bullets by deer and varmint hunters within the range of the endangered California condor has been sent to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But sources for sportsmen’s groups and firearms organizations say they don’t necessarily expect a rubber stamp from the “Governator,” and believe he may veto the measure and defer any such regulatory action to the California Fish and Game Commission.
Assembly Bill 821, the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, was approved by the state Senate 23-15 on Tuesday, with amendments subsequently approved by the Assembly on Wednesday. Voting was generally along party lines in the Democrat-controlled legislature.
Ban proponents base their case for the legislation on a 2006 University of California-Santa Cruz study contending that lead from bullets and bullet fragments left in carcasses or gut piles is a major contributor to poisoning in condors. A scavenger by nature–much like vultures in other parts of the country—the condor’s primary food source is carrion.
Opponents of the bill, including the National Rifle Association, contend that an outright ban of ammunition types sets a bad precedent, could lead to extended prohibitions and that wildlife matters should be science-based and handled by the appropriate state agency—and not by politicians. In addition, opponents say such action could adversely affect overall hunter numbers in The Golden State.
“We believe the Governor should reinforce the authority of the Fish and Game Commission as the body of experts with jurisdiction over wildlife in the state,” said Darren LaSorte, NRA’s Manager of Hunting Policy. “The Legislature has arrogantly dismissed the years-long deliberative process involving extensive public input and review of the most current scientific information pertaining to the potential effects of lead ammunition on the health of condors.”
LaSorte also brought into question the data used by the legislature, saying a new scientific review provided to the Commission reveals that previous science attempting to link lead ammo and condor mortality is severely flawed.
Is lead ammo getting an unwarranted bad rap for its potential harm to the endangered condor?
Perhaps it is, according to new research published just today in the UK-based scientific journal, Bird Conservation International. The report implies that ingested anthropogenic material (that’s “swallowed junk” to us flatlanders) was directly responsible for the deaths of condor nestlings in a recent study. The material included glass fragments, metal bottle-tops, washers, cartridge cases, electrical wiring and plastic pipes, according to the article.
“Current levels of junk ingestion clearly surpass that found in the historical breeding population,” the authors conclude. “The deleterious effects of junk ingestion on condor nest success now seriously threaten the long-term re-establishment of a viable, self-sustaining breeding population in southern California.”
Maybe lawmakers need to forget about bullets and worry about cleaning up the junk that litters their state.