Condor, © Scott Frier/USFWS

Follow Governor Brown’s Lead on Lead

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO

Lead is a neurotoxin known to cause severe nervous system damage and even death in both humans and wildlife. Lead ammunition is one of the leading sources of this poison left in the environment. Lead bullets often shatter into numerous small fragments inside targeted game animals, posing threats to human health when consumed in game meat and also to wildlife scavengers and carrion eaters that consume gut piles of game animals that are left behind on the ground. There are cost-comparable, performance-guaranteed alternatives to lead ammunition in the market today. All of these statements lead to one logical conclusion: It’s time to end the use of lead ammunition for sport hunting in this country.

Bald eagle x-ray, © USGS

X-ray of lead shot in the digestive tract of a young bald eagle, a species at high risk of poisoning. © USGS

Fortunately for Californians, last week Governor Jerry Brown signed first-in-the-nation legislation that would do just that. The Governor’s historic decision is supported by thousands of citizens, a myriad of agencies and public health and environmental groups, nearly 20 newspapers from across the state, and the California State Senate and Assembly.

This new law builds upon a long-standing federal requirement to use non-lead shot when hunting migratory waterfowl and a recent California law which required the use of non- lead ammunition for hunting within the range of the federally listed condor in California. Condors are among this nation’s most endangered wildlife and lead fragments left behind in the carcasses of dead animals that they feed on have been a leading cause of condor deaths. Lead poisoning has become so serious for condors that they are frequently brought in from the wild to have lead removed from their blood, a painful and hugely stressful process for the birds that is not always successful.

While the federal waterfowl requirement and the earlier California condor law were important victories in the battle to eliminate an unnecessary source of lead from our environment, they were only the beginning of a long but necessary fight. Condors, bald and golden eagles and other skilled hunting birds have continued to perish from lead poisoning picked up from injecting hunting ammunition.

Thankfully, in California, as of last Friday, the state will be leading the nation in an entirely new, lead-free direction.

lead shot, © USGS

Lead shot at a shooting range, with a quarter placed for scale. © USGS

But while the major shift in policy on lead ammunition in California is a huge step forward, the task of ridding lead from the environment is far from over. The toxic effects of lead do not stop at state lines, so the elimination of lead in hunting should not end at California’s border. Governor Brown’s decision to get lead out of the Golden State has set in motion what we hope will become a wave of actions to eliminate lead ammunition from hunting nationwide. The federal government should follow Governor Brown’s example and end the use of lead ammunition for hunting on public lands, particularly on national wildlife refuges. The other 49 states should also pick up the cause and require non-lead ammunition for hunting on state and private lands.

With all of the health risks and environmental contaminants we contend with on a daily basis, why would we not do ourselves and wildlife a long overdue favor by removing lead ammunition from hunting? Long ago, we stopped poisoning ourselves and our children with lead paint, lead pipes and leaded gasoline, and decades ago we stopped poisoning the environment with lead shot when hunting waterfowl.

Governor Brown has done the courageous thing for the citizens of his state, and now the federal government and other states need to follow his lead and get the lead out of the rest of America.


Originally published in The Huffington Post

24 Responses to “Follow Governor Brown’s Lead on Lead”

  1. P. Dyer

    Good for Governor Brown! Nice to see a politician doing the right thing!

  2. L.M

    Yes thank you Governor Brown a politician standing up for wildlife too.. wish more would .

  3. wherecanigetsomeobjectivity

    Don’t get too excited about politicians making key wildlife decisions, you may enjoy this one, but I’m certain there are some decision in MT, WY and ID that you may not like.

    Leave wildlife decisions to biologists, not politicians who are swayed by the political winds.

  4. ElPolacko

    Anyone that believes that banning lead bullets is going to save the condors needs an enema. First, if hunters have to use steel shot to hunt upland game it will start so many fires you wont have to worry about lead poisoning. They’ll burn to death. Like it or not…lead doesn’t spark.
    Second, more condors are killed by windmills in the Tehachapi Pass than any lead bullets along will all of the rest of those “protected” birds. If Brown is so worried about “protecting” the birds, why doesn’t he close down the wind farms? I think we know the answer to that.
    This is just another blatant attack on hunting and our Second amendment rights. Just remember, everyone gets what they want…and then their sorry.

    • Robert


      It’s not just about banning lead ammo it’s about hunting and gun ownership in general. I’m not from commiefornia and it is not the state that I remember when I was stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station on a Naval ship. These libtards and there idiot tree hugging supporters have ruined this state as well as our Country. I could careless about the condor or any other non game species that I can not hunt and eat. What about the other carrion eaters they could eat lead pellets or ammo ?To so to me it’s about CONTROL and the libtards agenda to disarm law abiding American citizens. Well they can try but this is one American Veteran that will not surrender his arms not matter how many UnConstitutional laws they pass. So if they want a fight they are going to get one and I shoot to kill.

  5. E.O' Leary

    We should also be doing this in Canada and all over the world for that matter. Way to go Governer Brown!!
    If steel shot, as the hunter above so cllearly stated, is going to cause fires then I am sure that someone will find some projectile which is safe or just put some sort of coating or mixture of metals. We can go into space i am sure we can figure out something better than a toxic metal such as lead. IT IS BETTER THAN NOT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL!
    We need to do more to save certain species and clean up the mess we have created on the Earth and in all the oceans.Our selfish polluting and destruction of ecosystems will be the demise of the human race and of all the wonderful species and plants on our planet.

  6. wherecanigetsomeobjectivity


    The batteries in my electric car contain far more toxins than what comes out the barrel of a gun. Considering most car batteries are lead-acid batteries they pose a far greater danger. Most people don’t get overly emotional about cars though, gun on the other hand….

    I’m anxious to see if condor blood levels have still not improved despite 99% compliance of the lead ban that has been in place for 5 years.

  7. Diane Pease

    Kudos to Governor Brown. Now the rest of this country needs to follow his good example.

  8. Jon

    To “wherecaniget” Have you ever witnessed a condor or eagle eating a car battery? Neither have I!

  9. arktoi

    it’s about time. as to the whiners who are against every good thing that is ever proposed to protect our wildlife and environment, your absurd objections are groundless and ridiculous. deal with it.

  10. Marilyn

    FYI those of you who think it’s a political move on Jerry Browns’ part….He became an environmentalist long before anyone would have considered it was politically motivated!!!!

  11. Dr. Johanna van de Woestijne

    This isn’t about guns, but rather about saving a species that despite efforts remains at risk of extinction. Scientists went back to basic science and research to figure out the key causes of the Condor deaths. Taking the lead out of ammunition will affect the health of other species too, including humans.

  12. Brenda

    Well, it’s something, not necessarily the right thing. Stop hunting all together then there won’t be a problem. Hunters say it’s the hunt that they love; well use a camera instead of a gun or go hunt pedophiles or criminals or join the forces where they pay you to hunt and kill! Hunters say they need the animal for food; really? You don’t have grocery stores? You can’t plant a garden? Hunting is just an excuse.

    • Robert

      You and the rest of your tree hugging libturds and animal rights idiots need to use a camera in another country. Hunting is an American hertiage not using a camera. My family raises there own food it is called farming and we have been doing it since long before you were born. Included in that is raising cattle, poultry and grain. We supplement that with hunting game. It’s not about hunting it is about control and not you or any other libturd politician will tell me or my family that we can’t hunt with lead ammo or hunt period.

  13. Isabel Brown

    Yes, nice work Governor Brown. Now before you pat yourself on the back, how about getting some backbone and banning hunting altogether. Never mind lead bullets, why must there be bullets at all?

    • Robert

      How about we ban anti-gun, anti-hunting liberals. If you don’t like hunting or guns then don’t hunt or own firearms. I do and I will.

  14. JACK

    Never thought I would give a than you to Gov. Brown.
    Get rid of the wind mills also.

  15. Suzy Tripp

    BRAVO Governor Brown! This is why I voted for you in the 70’s and in the 21st Century.

  16. Marissa

    Thank you Gov. Brown! I hope that you continue to further help the environment and its inhabitants. I can only hope the the rest of the country follows through on lead.

  17. Michelle

    wherecanigetsomeobjectivity said; “car batteries are lead-acid batteries they pose a far greater danger”
    Car batteries are not part of their diet.

  18. Gordon

    Biggest joke I have heard of. Just like golbal warming as threatened our way of thinking to become more violent. It is another step of gun control. For the person who said give up hunting and take a camera, must mean buy your sodium nitrate and all the other preservatives found in Meats including hormones. What about the poisons we consume in our food and pool cleaners in our children’s cereal? Yes, cars, windmills, trains and pesticides have killed a lot birds and animals. Our farm lands are being deteriorated by business and homes as we welcome more illegal immigrants and provide free health care and free subsidized living. California is no longer the golden state but instead a brown state. Get real America.

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