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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Reverse Obama’s ammunition ban on federal lands

Jan. 25, 2017 Updated Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 at 1:16 p.m.

David T. Cloe

I am a conservationist. I am also a hunter. I’ve spent the last nine years in our great state of Washington supporting the pastime. When I spend money on hunting, which many of us do frequently, I’m proud to know that I’m supporting local jobs and conservation programs through my hunting dollars.

Needless to say, I was deeply disturbed to learn that one of the final acts of the outgoing Obama administration was to undercut public access to hunting opportunities by banning the use of traditional ammunition on federal lands. Also, the ban on imported ammunition steel-tipped 5.45x39 ammunition and the ever-popular M855 5.56x45 ammunition used in the AR-15.

Issued under cover of darkness by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, Director’s Order 219 places an immediate ban on the use of traditional ammunition in national parks, wildlife refuges and all other lands administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Let’s set aside for the moment this outrageous act of executive overreach, absent any opportunity for public comment or any respect for proper legislative channels (similar regulatory proposals have received bipartisan opposition in Congress). This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that an outgoing administration has chosen to leave its mark not in carefully quilled ink, but hastily tagged spray paint. Instead, let us consider how this order could impact hunters and conservation as a whole in our country – factors outgoing Director Ashe would have considered had the administration’s goal in fact been environmental protection.

It is money spent by hunters that pays for conservation via hunting licenses and stamps and the Pittman-Robertson Act, which created an 11 percent tax on equipment such as guns as well as ammunition. Hunters lobbied for these taxes and fees themselves because, as hunters, we understand the importance of conservation. But the more expensive (though not statistically safer) ammunition that would be required on many public hunting lands under Director’s Order 219 will price many hunters out of the market.

Why would an Obama functionary do such a thing on his last full day on the job? Not to boost conservation revenue. And certainly not for the “science” of it. Director’s Order 219 cites as its basis the misleading, if not fully debunked, claim that there is an “ongoing risk” to birds which ingest “spent shot directly from the ground or as a result of predating or scavenging carcasses that have been killed with lead ammunition and left in the field.”

In this statement, Mr. Ashe offered neither scientific data nor actuarial study to give credence to this claim. The reason for the omission is simple: the supporting data simply isn’t there.

We have seen such tactics time and time again from the radical, anti-hunting lobby. It’s a popular tactic to scapegoat hunters in the name of conservation, but as with most misleading endeavors, it harms what it claims to help most, namely habitat and wildlife populations. The only hunting tradition such activists reliably support is the old-fashioned witch-hunt, with politically motivated “science” as fire to their crucible.

There are a number of bills collecting dust that would undo all of Obama’s ammunition executive orders immediately. H.R.1180, for example, is just two pages long and states simply that “no entity of the Government of the United States may issue or enforce a regulation … that would restrict or prohibit the manufacture, importation, or sale of ammunition in the United States.”

For the sake of hunters and wildlife across our state, let’s hope that the new administration extinguishes this nonsense once and for all.

David T Cloe is state co-chairman of Hunting Works for Washington.

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