New interior chief Zinke arrives on horseback, revokes Obama ban on lead bullets

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (L) rides a horse on his first day on the job in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, March 2. He then signed two secretarial orders. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Interior/Flickr

March 3 (UPI) — Ryan Zinke, riding to work on his first day as interior secretary Thursday, rescinded an Obama administration order that banned lead ammunition and fishing tackle on wildlife refuges.

Zinke rode a bay roan gelding horse to the Department of the Interior from National Park Service’s stables on the National Mall — less than a mile. Zinke, 55, previously was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana.

Zinke, who was confirmed by the Senate 68-31 on Wednesday, signed his first secretarial order that overturned a policy enacted the day before Barack Obama left office.

The original order banned lead ammunition and fishing tackle on Fish and Wildlife Service refuges and others regulated by federal agencies. The intent was to prevent plants and animals from being poisoned by the bullets and tackle.

“After reviewing the order and the process by which it was promulgated, I have determined that the order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders,” Zinke wrote in his order.

The ban was opposed by gun rights advocates, sportsmen’s groups, conservatives and state wildlife agencies.

“This was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community,” Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last-second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.”

The Sierra Club supported the ban.

“Non-lead options are available, effective, cost-competitive, and most importantly, safer,” Athan Manuel, public lands director for the Sierra Club, said to The Hill. “Overturning the lead ammunition ban may win political points with a few special interests, but it could cost the lives of millions of birds and the health of families that rely on game to feed their families.”

In another order, Zinke asked agencies in the Interior Department to “enhance conservation stewardship, increase outdoors recreation and improve the management of game species and their habitat.”

“It worries me to think about hunting and fishing becoming activities for the land-owning elite,” he said in a statement. “This package of secretarial orders will expand access for outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is heard.”


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