On Friday, September 8, NRA-ILA joined a coalition of hunting groups to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to phase out lead ammunition in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.
Every year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expands hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System. These annual openings have traditionally deferred to state hunting regulations. Aside from California, which bans hunting with lead ammunition statewide, most states allow hunters to harvest wildlife with lead ammunition. That traditional deference started to fade when plans to phase out lead ammunition on the Refuge System gained traction during the Obama administration and have picked up again in the Biden administration.
In the latest event of this saga, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on 19 different properties in the Refuge System—with the caveat that hunters and anglers could not use lead ammo or tackle in the new openings. But the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t stop there. It proposed to phase out lead ammunition and tackle completely on 10 of the properties, including Canaan Valley, while it “continues to evaluate the future of lead use in hunting and fishing on Service lands and waters.”
But after the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and many others opposed the proposed plan to phase out the use of lead ammunition and tackle in Canaan Valley, the Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew the plans to expand hunting opportunities and phase out lead ammunition and tackle in Canaan Valley.
That wasn’t good enough for the plaintiffs who filed this lawsuit, which asks the court to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to phase out lead ammunition in the Canaan Valley Refuge, even though there were no additional hunting opportunities created in the rule.
“The National Wildlife Refuge System was created to increase opportunities for families to engage in traditional outdoor activities,” said Randy Kozuch, Executive Director of NRA-ILA. “The 1997 Improvement Act lists hunting and fishing as the first two priority uses for the Refuge System. Limiting access to the system runs counter to the concept of public lands and Congress’s intentions. And regulating the type of ammunition that wildlife can be harvested with interferes with the states’ traditional authority to manage their wildlife. This lawsuit gets everything backwards.”
This is NRA-ILA’s latest legal action to defend hunters’ rights to use traditional lead ammunition. Last week, after 11 years of litigation, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a case attempting to ban lead ammunition on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. The NRA also moved to intervene in a suit challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2020 rule expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands. That suit was ultimately settled, and all lands remained open to hunting. And the NRA defeated a legal attempt to completely ban lead ammunition nationwide back in 2014.
The case is called National Wildlife Refuge Association v. Haaland. Safari Club International and Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation also intervened in the case.
Please stay tuned to www.nraila.org for future updates on NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to defend your constitutional rights.