Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman
Committee on Environment and Public Works
(Remarks as submitted for the record)
Mr. President, I appreciate Sen. Tester's leadership in putting together legislation (S. 3525) to address the priorities of sportsmen across the country.
This bill has many important provisions that I support, including reauthorization of highly successful conservation programs in the Environment and Public Works Committee's jurisdiction, which I chair. These programs restore critical wetlands, support partnerships to conserve wildlife habitat, and promote outdoor recreation.
While I appreciate Sen. Tester's efforts to move this legislation forward, I remain deeply concerned about two provisions included in this package, which I will discuss today.
S. 3525 broadens an exemption that prohibits the use of the federal "Toxic Substances Control Act" to address public health and environmental threats from dangerous chemicals, including lead, in ammunition and fishing tackle.
Some ammunition and fishing tackle contains lead that can be harmful to people who consume meat contaminated with lead shot. In 2008, Minnesota examined packages of venison and found that 22% contained lead fragments. North Dakota has also found lead fragments in venison being distributed for food.
The latest science shows that there is no known safe level of lead in children's blood. Because lead can damage the nervous system, including the brain, children and pregnant women are especially at risk.
Animals can also be poisoned or die after eating ammunition that is shot into lakes, rivers and upland areas, or when they consume the carcass of another animal that contains spent ammunition. In 2008, an expert at the United States Geological Survey stated: "Science is replete with evidence that ingestion of spent ammunition and fishing tackle can kill birds. The magnitude of poisoning in some species such as waterfowl, eagles, California condors, swans and loons, is daunting."
There are safe and effective alternatives, such as steel, to the use of lead in shot and fishing tackle. According to the State of Wisconsin, "Steel shot actually arrives on target in a tighter pattern... (and) penetrates game better than lead... Extensive research, testing steel and other non-toxic shot, shows it to be both safe and effective."
The federal government must be able to use all of the tools at its disposal to protect American families from consuming contaminated food. Therefore, we should not create unneeded exemptions that apply to lead and an unknown number of other contaminants.
I also oppose the provision in S. 3525 that would allow sport-hunted polar bear trophies to be imported from Canada. This misguided provision could jeopardize recovery efforts for a species that is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
Before polar bears received their protected status under the ESA and MMPA, there were extensive warnings for over a year that this protection was imminent. Nevertheless, a small group of trophy hunters ignored these warnings and went forward scheduling new hunts , and they are now are seeking an exception to allow their polar bear trophies to be imported into the U.S.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that approximately 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remain in the wild. Their survival is severely jeopardized by many factors, and we should not provide a loophole that encourages hunting of this vulnerable species. Maintaining full, consistent protections for polar bears is critical to the health of the Arctic ecosystem, the Native communities who legally harvest these bears for subsistence purposes, and for the public at large that is working to save this iconic animal.
I believe this bill has many good provisions that will help preserve America's treasured natural resources, protect fish and wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for our families. Unfortunately, the bill also includes two provisions that threaten public health and could set back wildlife conservation efforts. I filed amendments to S. 3525 that would address these concerns, but if the amendments are not adopted and the bill remains unchanged, I will oppose S. 3525 in its current form.