New U.S. Interior head lifts lead ammunition ban in nod to hunters

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By Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON, March 2

WASHINGTON, March 2 New U.S. Interior Secretary
Ryan Zinke on Thursday issued an order overturning an Obama
administration ban on the controversial use of lead ammunition
and fishing tackle used on federal lands and waters, in a nod to
hunters and fishermen on his first day on the job.

Zinke, who was a first-term Montana Congressman and a former
Navy SEAL, arrived for his first day at work at the Interior
Department in Washington on a horse named Tonto escorted by
mounted U.S. Park Police officers.

Zinke, an avid angler and hunter, lifted the lead ammunition
ban in one of two secretarial orders, which he said were meant
to “expand access to public lands and increase hunting, fishing,
and recreation opportunities nationwide.”

President Barack Obama’s Fish and Wildlife Service had
issued the lead ban on Jan. 19, one day before the inauguration
of President Donald Trump, to protect birds and fish from lead
poisoning. The move was met with sharp criticism from the
National Rifle Association (NRA), which called it Obama’s “final
assault on gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”

The Interior Department, which is in charge of conserving
fish, wildlife and their habitat, manages one-fifth of the land
in the United States. It employs more than 70,000 people across
the United States.

Zinke also signed an order on Thursday that would direct
federal agencies to identify areas where recreation and fishing
can be expanded and sought recommendations for expanding access
to public lands and improving fishing and wildlife habitat.

“This package of secretarial orders will expand access for
outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is
heard,” he said.

The NRA, as well as hunting and fishing groups including the
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Shooting Sports
Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt
Conservation Partnership attended the signing of the orders.

Zinke said that fishing, hunting, and other outdoor
recreation activities “generate thousands of jobs and billions
of dollars in economic activity.”

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