Hunters are up in arms over an Arizona-based conservation group latest bid to get the federal government to ban lead bullets, which the environmentalists claim contaminates the food chain.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which claims 220,000 members, has sent a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of nearly 100 groups in 35 states asking the agency to regulate lead right out of ammunition. It's the second time the group has attempted to get the EPA to take up the cause, and the group is currently suing the federal agency for rejecting the previous bid.
Hunting groups scoff at the Center's claims that lead left in the carcasses of animals they shoot but don't collect harms the food chain and that spent casings can contaminate groundwater. They say the group has long sought to curb their rights to hunt and own firearms.
“They are like a woodpecker without any wood. They just keep pecking away,” Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation told FoxNews.com. “It’s clear that their motivation is to end hunting in the United States.”
The environmental group claims the EPA has jurisdiction over bullets through the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. But an EPA spokesman told FoxNews.com the agency denied the previous petition because the agency does not share the opinion it has legal authority over bullets and shotgun pellets.
Keane, who noted that the environmental group's original petition did not exempt police officers or military personnel from using lead bullets, applauded the EPA for understanding its role.
“Regulating ammunition for hunting is simply not in the EPA’s sandbox,” said Keane
Officials at the Center for Biological Diversity, a 501(c)3 organization that took in just under $8 million in 2010, declined to comment to FoxNews.com. But earlier this week, spokesman Jeff Miller released a statement outlining the group's case.
“The unnecessary poisoning of eagles, condors and other wildlife is a national tragedy that the EPA can easily put an end to," Miller said. "There are safe, available alternatives to lead ammo for all hunting and shooting sports, so there’s no reason for this poisoning to go on.
“This isn’t about hunting — it’s about switching to nontoxic materials to stop preventable lead poisoning,” Miller said.
Keane disputed the claim that lead bullets are a threat to anything other than what they are fired at.
"There's no sound science that show lead ammunition having an impact on wildlife population," said Keane, adding that the firearms industry pays a federal excise tax of 11 percent on ammunition, which goes to wildlife conservation programs.
Last month, Rep.Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) has recently authored a bill called the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 which places protections on hunting, fishing and shooting. The bill would clarify that materials commonly used in hunting and fishing fall outside the scope of the EPA's enforcement of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
“Most of our fish and wildlife habitat can be attributed to the taxes paid by the firearms, ammunition and sport fishing tackle industries through sportsmen," Miller told FoxNews.com. "Ammunition prices are already on the rise and imposing a ban on traditional ammunition and fishing tackle would result in considerable reductions in the number of sportsmen participating in the outdoors, and funding the future of our fish and wildlife habitat.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych