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Lawsuit targets lead ammo and tackle on federal lands

Whooping Crane

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week for allegedly failing to protect endangered wildlife harmed by lead ammunition and tackle in South Dakota and elsewhere.

The lawsuit challenges a Trump administration decision to allow lead ammunition and tackle on 2.3 million acres across 147 federal wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. An earlier order, rescinded by the Trump administration, had begun a phaseout of lead by 2023.

Camila Cossío is a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We're challenging the rule under the Trump administration because it expanded the use of lead ammunition and lead tackle on many units of the refuge system," she said. "And we are really concerned about the impacts that this might have or will have on endangered species.”

Lead is toxic to both humans and animals. There are nontoxic alternatives for ammunition and tackle, including steel.

Cossío said one species that could be affected is the whooping crane, which feeds in the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge in southcentral South Dakota. Cossío said the birds can ingest lead particles while feeding in fields and waterways.

But Cossío said the lawsuit is not an attack on hunting.

“We're afraid about the accumulation of lead shot," she said. "It's what's most dangerous because it just scatters. But we're not targeting hunting per se, just the material.”

The lawsuit brings claims under the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. It was filed in federal district court in Montana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet filed a formal response with the court.