So much for "openness": Obama's National Park Service ammo ban

By Jim Shepherd

When the National Park Service decided to ban lead in fishing tackle and ammunition from properties under their control, they probably thought this was another of their little surprises that would stay under the radar. Instead, they've found themselves justifiably pilloried by a wide array of organizations representing the hunting and fishing communities and several state legislatures who find their capricious rule-making more than a little offensive.

At this point, the idea of politicians getting angry over bad regulatory policy seems a bit disingenuous, but hey, allies are allies when it comes to the National Park Service.

Anyway, only one group has sent us a release supporting the news that by 2010 the use of lead for fishing or hunting would be banned in the National Park System - the National Wildlife Federation. The NWF has been on the leading edge of the move to ban lead, and has incurred the wrath of hunters and anglers. Groups who have affiliated with the NWF have also found their motives questioned.

The primary fishing and shooting organizations have come out swinging over the decision. The National Shooting Sports Foundation called the decision "arbitrary, over-reactive, and not based on science."

The American Sportfishing Association says the ban runs "counter to the president's memo on transparency in government." ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson says "Their intention to eliminate the use of lead in fishing tackle in national parks was made without prior consultation of the sportfishing industry or the millions of recreational anglers who fish within the national park system."

"In his January 21, 2009, Executive Memo to federal agency and department heads, President Obama made it very clear that he expects the federal government to be transparent, participatory and collaborative and that 'executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.' We expect the National Park Service to follow the President's order."

Unfortunately, that expectation may be misplaced.

In West Virginia, where the New River Gorge National River covers a vast area of land - and is under NPS administration, state officials are questioning whether the NPS policy violates states' rights. West Virginia wildlife chief Curtis Taylor has gone on record as believing this decision "will come down to the powers of the states versus the power of the federal government."

Having just returned from a fishing trip on the White River in Arkansas, I know from conversations with guides and anglers that this decision isn't one they plan to take without making their opposition known.

In three-days of fishing, the secret weapon for catching fish during our trip was a simple white maribou jig. Under NPS regulations, those same jigs would become banned. As one guide remarked, "the government has more than showed they want to tell us what to do, eat, and think. I've already had about enough of their telling me how to behave when they're doing whatever they please - with our money."

West Virginia officials may have mirrored the rest of the country's concerns with their considered opposition. As they've indicated a willingness to "come to the table" and dialogue with NPS officials, they're also on record as saying NPS officials coming to the table with a preconceived notion that banning all lead ammo and fishing tackle is the way to go. If that were the case, they told the Charleston Gazette, "it would be difficult to have an effective dialogue under those circumstances."

The NPS may be facing a lot of difficult dialogues with this seemingly unilateral decision.

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

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