Lead bullet ban to help protect endangered bird
BY DAVID BURGER, Californian staff writer | February 23, 2007
LOS ANGELES -- For the benefit of the endangered California Condor, Tejon Ranch officials announced Friday they soon will no longer allow lead ammunition on their 270,000 acres.
The move, announced at a press conference with Audubon California, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other officials, doesn't affect many people -- only about 1,800 hunters use the land annually.
But ranch President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Stine said the ranch -- the largest contiguous landowner in the state -- is the first entity in the state to voluntarily discontinue the use of the bullets that activists say are the biggest threat to condors.
Taking the lead on lead
Condors are especially susceptible to lead poisoning that results from the large birds scavenging the remains of carcasses and carrion from animals killed by lead bullets, said Jesse Grantham, condor recovery coordinator of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service.
After reaching a low of about 22 California condors worldwide in the 1980s, the condor population has risen to nearly 300 since then, Grantham said.
Officials speaking at the announcement predicted the ranch's move should spur other organizations and land-managers to call for the ban of lead bullets.
The requirement to use non-lead ammunition will begin at the start of the 2008 hunting season. At the ranch, animals hunted include deer, elk, antelope, wild pigs, wild turkeys, coyotes, squirrel, pigeons, doves and quail.
A "Lead and the California Condor" pamphlet, put out by the Fish & Wildlife Service and passed out at the conference, stated "today it is widely acknowledged that a superior non-toxic bullet is available" and hunters "have been extremely satisfied and recommend it as a suitable alternative to lead."
Dandy added that ballistically, copper can be superior to lead, and that lead-free bullets and primer are better for the environment and for people who could inhale the lead primer when shooting.
The day also wasn't free of more controversy. The Center for Biological Diversity released a statement in the afternoon praising the switch to lead-free ammunition, but further criticized the ranch's nascent plan of urban development in part of the ranch.
"We applaud Tejon Ranch's decision to get the lead out for condors, and if the state's largest private landholder can go lead-free, then the rest of California should be able to follow suit," Jeff Miller with the center said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the urban-sprawl developments planned for Tejon Ranch are also a gun to the head of condor recovery efforts."
"Tejon's proposed 28,500-acre Tejon Mountain Village will devastate the heart of the condor's critical habitat," said center biologist Ileene Anderson.