The Oregon Zoo’s Anti-Lead Ammunition Crusade Continues

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The Oregon Zoo’s Anti-Lead Ammunition Crusade Continues

bob sallinger

June 25, 2015 – by Dominic Aiello, President

The Oregon Zoo’s Anti-Lead Ammunition Crusade Continues

Oregon Outdoor Council non-lead ammo

Environmental and anti-hunting groups have sued the EPA, petitioned the Department of Interior, and congress to ban 100% of lead ammunition from public land across the country. The implications of this are serious. Luckily, so far, they’ve been unsuccessful. But, it’s clear that lead ammunition is their most recent vehicle to make hunting more difficult, more costly, and success less likely.

“Ok, Dominic, but what does this have to do with the Oregon Zoo?” Great question! As you may or may not know, the Oregon Zoo announced the creation of a new position about eight months ago. The Wildlife and Lead Outreach Coordinator would be created with the goal of “educating” hunters on why they [hunters] should stop using traditional ammunition for more costly, less available ammunition. As detailed in one of my previous articles, we filed a freedom of information request for documents from the Oregon Zoo to find out if taxpayer funds were being used to fund this position and who was behind this effort (read more about this here).

OregonZooEstimateThe Oregon Zoo responded by sending an estimate for the “cost to provide” the requested documents. The Oregon Zoo claimed it would cost $56,633.70 to provide the requested documents! Why would an agency provide such an extremely high estimate simply to provide documents about their program? ” They do not want you to have the records.  This is an exorbitant fee, to say the least.” says Ross Day, legal counsel for the Oregon Outdoor Council.

Fast forward and the Oregon Zoo hired Leland Brown in February of 2015 to the Wildlife and Lead Outreach Coordinator position. On June 23, 2015 he made a presentation to the Oregon Department of Wildlife’s monthly Sports Group Leaders meeting.

During his presentation he attempted to make it clear that he does not support a ban on lead ammunition and he only wants to present information on the alternative ammunition options available and the science (that he claims) proves why we shouldn’t use lead ammunition. Do I believe his personal intentions are good? Yes. Do I believe that his position is being used to further impact hunting in Oregon? Yes, and I think he is either blissfully ignorant to this (possibly because he’s new to Oregon) or refuses to believe it to be a possibility.

I want to share this very brief video of Oregon State Representative Whisett, also a veterinarian, grilling anti-lead activist (and biologist) in a 2015 legislative hearing on lead ammunition.

With that said, I wanted to highlight some very troubling statements Leland made during the Q&A period of his presentation.

Anecdotal Evidence

I asked Leland if we manage entire wildlife populations based on science and the sustainable or unsustainable impacts humans have on any given species. He agreed. I then asked if there was any science that has proven (at least at this time) that lead from hunters is causing an intolerable (or any) level of wildlife mortality. His response was, outside of the Condor, no. Then I pointed out that California passed a lead ban on areas with condors yet instances of lead poisoning have increased, not decreased. In response, he chose (as a biologist) to turn to anecdotal evidence, saying “I think the testimony stating that there is a 99% compliance rate is garbage. I know many people that have told me they’ll never shoot anything but a lead bullet.”

Most biologists would laugh off such an anecdotal attempt to dispute data, and ultimately we don’t manage wildlife based on anecdotal evidence.

Here is the testimony he disputed with anecdotal evidence:

Grossly Unjustified Comment

At one point, possibly out of frustration (which has happened to the best of us), Leland made the unprofessional and unjustified comment that “if you want to feed your pregnant wife lead-ladened meat, that’s your choice.”

A study from Minnesota (which he validated) concluded that people eating game meat killed by lead bullets maintained a blood lead level lower than the national average. And later, he even admitted that there is no evidence proving that lead bullets are a human safety risk. While his comment, possibly out of frustration, is unjustified and unprofessional, it shows more about his tolerance, or lack of, opposing views on lead ammunition.

Compromise with Anti-Hunting Groups 

It was extremely troubling when Leland suggested that the hunting community should compromise by working with environmental and anti-hunting groups on this issue. I then asked, knowing that if we work on this issue with those groups today that they’ll be working against us on five other issues tomorrow, how can he justify us compromising? His response was “we’re not always going to agree on everything.” That type of response carries water in some situations, however, in this situation it shows a clear lack of understanding of the issues in Oregon. These groups continuously attack hunting, take action that harm huntable wildlife populations, ask us to join their side of a fight, but never compromise to help hunters. Here are two (of many) brief examples:

  • The Northwest Forest Plan: early seral habitat is virtually non-existent on Oregon’s federal forest as a result of this plan. Once again, an ODFW study (highlighted that same night), proved that blacktail deer are critically dependent on mosaic, fringe, and early seral habitat. This is not news to any deer biologist or hunter. However, despite the fact that federal forest have seen an extremely steep decline of deer and elk, environmental groups continue to sue and block any sensible increase in plans to provide early seral habitat.
  • Predator Management: it’s extremely clear – ODFW admits it, lawmakers admit it, the hunting community admits it – Oregon has a predator problem. The cougar population (as one example) has by the most conservative estimates has more than doubled since 1994. Once again, environmental groups in Oregon continue to attack sportsmen claiming we’re bloodthirsty killers simply trying to make our sport easier, claiming science doesn’t support predator management (despite plenty of science proving otherwise) and blocking any sensible plan to solve this issue.

METRO’s Goal. Ultimately Leland is employed by METRO via the Oregon Zoo. METRO has (and continues to) purchase thousands of acres in Washington County (and others) that have been historically (and recently) used as waterfowl hunting grounds. However, METRO does not allow hunting on a single piece of its property. With METRO eliminating hunting opportunities and hiring someone to “educate” hunters on scientifically unfounded impacts lead ammunition has on wildlife populations, their goal seems questionable at best.

We’ll keep up the good fight!
Dominic Aiello

P.S. You can help us keep up the good fight (and receive an awesome flashlight) by joining the Oregon Outdoor Council today for only $25! Click here to join.