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Gazette Articles on Lead Ammo

The late muzzleloader deer hunting season runs this year from December 22 through January 10. The Cedar Rapids Gazette has published several opinion articles about using alternative ammunition as opposed to lead-based sources.

Mark Edwards, retired from the DNR, wrote about getting the lead out of hunting after he faced a sick Bald Eagle. The eagle evetually died from lead poisoning. Read "Get the Lead Out of Hunting"

Rich Patterson, a member of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America’s Circle of Conservation Chiefs, wrote about alternative, lead-free ammunition after he switched to copper ammunition -- 15 years ago. Read "Viable Lead Alternatives Exist."

Mike Johnson, sales manager for an Iowa-based manufacturer of competitive shotgun shooting ammunition, advocates for the collection and recycling of lead-based ammunition. He also discourages the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting. Read "A Lead Shot Maker's View: Safety, Recycling, Innovation."

The Gazette also tweeted a photograph of leadshot left after a shoot. (Sierra Club has not been able to verify the photographer.)

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Five Southern Iowa Counties

The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the positive identity of the emerald ash borer (EAB) for the first time in rural Iowa. Eight larvae were collected as part of an investigation in eastern Lucas County in late November 2014.

The most recent counties with confirmed infestations include:

Lucas County. A forestry contractor found dead ash trees with heavy woodpecker flecking while completing a timber stand improvement project on privately-owned woodland on the far eastern edge of Lucas County, 3/8 of a mile from Monroe County.

Monroe County. EAB team members continued to examine trees in the area and additional larvae were found in ash tree on public property in Monroe County, near the Lucas site.

Marion County. Larvae were found in a heavily-flecked ash tree on public property on the edge of Marysville.

Appanoose County. Larvae were found in a tree along train tracks in Moravia.

Mahaska County. Larvae were collected from a tree on private property on the north side of Eddyville.

The five most recent positive confirmations bring the total number of Iowa counties where emerald ash borer has been found to 18. A statewide quarantine, issued on Feb. 4, 2014, remains in place and restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash logs, wood chips and ash tree nursery stock out of Iowa into non-quarantined areas of other states.

EAB kills all ash tree species and is considered to be one of the most destructive tree pests in North America. Feeley encouraged Iowans who live in counties where EAB has not been confirmed to contact their district forester if they notice suspicious changes to their ash trees.

Lead for Shot, Bullets, and Fishing Sinkers

On August 3, 2010, the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Avian Veterinarians and a number of other groups submitted a petition  and attachment to EPA asking EPA to "prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of lead for shot, bullets and fishing sinkers." Read EPA's letter acknowledging receipt of the petition. On August 27, 2010, EPA denied the portion of the petition relating to lead in ammunition because the Agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  EPA's decision is based on the exclusion of shells and cartridges from the definition of "chemical substance'' in TSCA. EPA will continue to evaluate the petition request regarding fishing sinkers.

Lead fragments needlessly poison and kill millions of birds each year, including bald eagles, swans and endangered California condors. Lead bullets explode and fragment into minute particles in shot game and can spread throughout meat that humans eat. Studies using radiographs show that numerous, imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead can infect meat up to a foot and a half away from the bullet wound, causing a greater health risk to humans who consume lead-shot game than previously thought. A recent study found that up to 87 percent of cooked game killed by lead ammunition can contain unsafe levels of lead. State health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination from lead bullet fragments. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk.

In 2012, The Trumpeter Swan Society, Cascades Raptor Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Loon Lake Loon Association, Preserve Our Wildlife Organization, Tennessee Ornithological Society and Western Nebraska Resources Council and 94 other organizations tried to petition EPA again. The petition “requested that the EPA initiate a rulemaking for regulations that adequately protect wildlife, human health and the environment against the unreasonable risk of injury from bullets and shot containing lead used in hunting and shooting sports, which have a potential to cause harmful lead exposure to wildlife and humans.”

Again, the EPA denied the petition as being substantially the same as the August 2010 petition. EPA’s letter stated that it still didn’t have the authority under the TSCA to regulate lead shot, bullets and fishing sinkers.

Petitioners, Trumpeter Swan Society and the others named above, then asked the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia for a de novo review (an appellate standard of review for legal issues). Petitioners argued that the EPA did have the authority to regulate lead in bullets and shot and that the petition clearly demonstrated “reasonable basis for concluding that a rule or order was necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) filed legal motions in July 2012 to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting wildlife and people from toxic lead hunting ammunition left in the wild. The NRA moved to intervene in the suit filed by conservationists seeking a public process for EPA to consider regulating toxic lead in hunting ammunition.

The NRA, joined by Safari Club International, filed its motion to intervene in the pending suit The Trumpeter Swan Society v. EPA, filed in June 2012. The case was filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which grants the EPA the authority to regulate toxic substances. The suit was aimed at common-sense regulations for lead hunting ammunition, since there are plenty of nontoxic alternatives available on the market and in use in many states.

The National Rifle Association filed legal motions July 31 to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting wildlife and people from toxic lead hunting ammunition left in the wild. Lead fragments needlessly poison and kill millions of birds each year, including bald eagles, swans and endangered California condors. The NRA moved to intervene in the suit filed by conservationists seeking a public process for EPA to consider regulating toxic lead in hunting ammunition. A similar petition filed earlier this year was supported by nearly 150 public-interest groups in 38 states.

The NRA, joined by Safari Club International, filed its motion to intervene in the pending suit The Trumpeter Swan Society v. EPA, filed on June 6 in the D.C. District Court. The case was filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which grants the EPA the authority to regulate toxic substances, including lead bullets and shot contained in ammunition. The suit is aimed at common-sense regulations for lead hunting ammunition, since there are plenty of nontoxic alternatives available on the market and in use in many states.

The District Court agreed with EPA and dismissed the lawsuit in May 2013.

NRA Behind Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the NRA has also championed legislation (H.R. 3590) to strip the EPA’s authority to regulate toxic lead in ammunition and fishing equipment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, even though effective nontoxic alternatives exist for lead ammunition and sinkers for all hunting and fishing activities.

Introduced in November 2013 by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH), the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE) would require the Secretary of the Interior to assess expected economic impacts, including a review of expected increases in recreational hunting, fishing, shooting and conservation activities, to Congress no later than 12 months after enactment.

The Sportsmen’s Act consists of 11 sections.

Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection. This section excludes as any component of any firearm or related ammunition or sport fishing equipment as a “chemical substance” from the Toxic Substances Control Act. In other words, no shot or sinkers can be covered by TSCA.

Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support. Relates to constructing a public target range.

Public Lands Filming. Requires a $200 permit for a film crew of five or fewer people to film activities on federal land and waterways designated for public use during public hours.

Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness. Requires a permit be issued for the importation of any polar bear (or parts excluding an internal organ) from a polar bear taken in a sport hunt in Canada who submits proof the bear was legally harvested before May 2008 when polar bears were listed as a threatened species.

Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp. Grants permanent authority to the Secretary of the Interior to authorize states to issue electronic duck stamps.

Access to Water Resources Development Projects. Prohibits the promulgation or enforcement of any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm at a water resources development project administered by the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers if the firearm is in legal compliance and the individual is not otherwise prohibited from carrying a firearm.

Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee. Establishes the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council Advisory Committee to advise the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on wildlife and habitat conservation, hunting and recreational shooting.

Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities. Declares that recreational fishing and hunting are environmentally acceptable and beneficial activities that occur and can be provided on public lands and waters without adverse effects on other uses or users.

Respect for Treaties and Rights. Prohibits the Act from being construed to affect or modify any treaty or other right of any federally recognized Indian tribe.

Exemptions for Taking Migratory Birds on Certain Agricultural Land. Permits the taking of any migratory game bird on or over land that is not otherwise a baited area and contains a standing crop, standing, flooded or manipulated natural vegetation, flooded harvested cropland or an area on which seed or grain was scattered as the result of a normal agricultural practice.

Sense of Congress Regarding Snowmobiles on National Forest System Lands. Allows the Forest Service to continue to allow snowmobiles access to National Forest System lands at the same levels as allowed on 3/28/13, subject to closures for public health and safety at the discretion of the respective agencies.

The bill passed the House 268-154 in February 2014 with Iowa Representatives King, Latham and Loebsack voting in favor. H.R.3590 has since stalled in the Senate.


Group Formed to Educate on Hazards of Lead

A new Iowa nonprofit group has been formed to educate people about the hazards of lead poisoning for the health of both humans and wildlife. The “Lead is Poison Coalition” includes individuals and groups from the fields of conservation, human health, and community action.

The coalition formed after a recent decision to allow lead-based ammunition in hunting mourning doves. Iowa’s first-ever dove season began on September 1, 2011. The Iowa Natural Resources Commission, after extensive review of the evidence of the harmful effects of lead-based ammunition, voted to require non-toxic shot for hunting doves. However, implementation of this rule was delayed by the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee. The Legislature is expected to debate the ammunition issue again in 2012.

Lead, a potent neurotoxin, has in recent years been banned for most commercial uses, including gasoline, paint, solder, and wheel weights. Federal law has required non-toxic shot in waterfowl hunting since 1991, to reduce the poisoning of ducks and geese that ingested lead pellets while feeding in shallow marshes.

Requiring the use of non-toxic ammunition for hunting other game, however, has proved difficult. Guns-rights groups defending “traditional ammunition” interpret attempts to regulate lead ammunition as an attack on the sport of hunting, and downplay the poisonous nature of this neurotoxin.

The scientific evidence is growing, however, on the negative health and environmental effects of lead ammunition. For Iowa wildlife, lead poisoning each year kills dozens of bald eagles and other scavengers that consume animal carcasses containing lead. Lead contamination is also a rising problem at shooting ranges and other places that accumulate large amounts of spent shot. Doves and other ground feeders can ingest this shot mistaking shot for seed. 

For humans, ingesting game meat harvested with lead ammunition is not lethal; however, those persons consuming more wild game do show higher blood lead levels. This is because not all shot and bullet fragments can reliably be cleaned from the meat.

Since lead is a proven neurotoxin, there is no safe level of exposure. Children and pregnant women are most at risk from ingested lead, which mimics calcium. Growing bodies have a high calcium demand and will absorb lead at a higher rate than adults. Extensive research proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that lead exposure can impact brain development, causing attention deficit and learning disorders and lowering IQ. 

“As a registered nurse, I am concerned about the long-term health of both children and adults who consume wild game hunted with lead ammunition,” stated Cynthia Hansen, LIP-C Manager. “As a nature lover, it concerns me that more and more wildlife are being unnecessarily poisoned by exposure to lead ammunition either through direct ingestion or by ingesting animal carcasses containing lead. As a lifelong Iowan, I have always been proud that we have been good stewards of our land and all its natural resources. It only makes sense to remove lead ammunition from use in an effort to protect our families and our wildlife.”

Safe alternatives are available for lead-based ammunition. Steel shot can be used for game birds, and copper slugs and bullets for deer hunting.  

For more information, go to

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AMERICA’S GREAT OUTDOORS: Two Proposed Projects in Iowa to Promote Outdoor Recreation, Conservation

In November 2011, the Department of Interior under then Secretary Ken Salazar released a 50-state report outlining some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world. Salazar said at the time that the projects represent what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.

Conservation of the Loess Hills and establishment of a proposed new national wildlife refuge in the Southern Prairie Pothole region are among 100 projects nationwide that were highlighted in the report — two in every state — as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

The report was a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Terry E. Branstad and the state of Iowa, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders.

The two projects in Iowa highlighted in the report are:

Loess Hills

This 650,000-acre region is considered to be the best example of “loess” topography in the world, a rare geologic formation that provides habitat to 49 species of rare plants and animals. Hawks and other raptors are a common sight in this major migration corridor, and the area is also home to rare, native prairie grasses that are quickly disappearing. The region also contains numerous cultural and historic landmarks.

The Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, which runs through prairie, woodland, and farmland at the heart of the region, is one of that nation’s “10 most outstanding byways,” a reflection of the landscape’s natural beauty and scenic value. Thirty thousand acres of the Loess Hills are currently protected, mostly through conservation easements and inclusion in the Loess Hill State Forest. This area provides opportunities for youth engagement and recreation in seven counties. Furthermore, the Loess Hills area is within reach of Council Bluffs and Sioux City, the two urban areas in western Iowa and eastern South Dakota.

A strong foundation for advancing this project has been laid with conservation organizations like the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to work with willing sellers of working lands to conserve the few remaining relatively undisturbed areas.

Southern Prairie Pothole National Wildlife Refuge

Glacially formed prairie potholes and their surrounding wetlands in north central Iowa provide critical habitat for more than 90 species of birds. They produce at least 50 percent of the North American continental duck population each year. This wetland landscape is also an important resource for flood control, water quality, and aquifer recharging. To protect this unique landscape, the state of Iowa, local leaders, and nonprofit organizations seek to expand the existing Dunbar Slough/Willow Creek wetland complex by 5,000 acres and to establish the area as a national wildlife refuge. These partners also aim to develop a youth conservation education pilot program.

In addition, this project would complement the Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative — a new USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service initiative designed to enhance migratory-bird habitat and improve the water quality and the health of grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Plains. The Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative provides technical and financial assistance for restoring wetlands drained for agricultural uses; managing farmed wetlands in ways that reduce impacts on wildlife and water quality; and keeping unaltered wetlands in their current condition.

The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Iowa, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance in expanding the Dunbar Slough/Willow Creek Wetland Complex and establish the Southern Prairie Pothole National Wildlife Refuge.

The Department could also provide financial support for strategic land protection, including acquisition of conservation easements on working lands and for communities to better conserve and manage the natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Loess Hills. There may be potential to explore the designation of the area as a national preserve.

The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.

“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”

For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

View the report.

Download the full report

Bad Shot

Despite cheap, readily available alternatives, most American sportsmen are still using lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Because of this, some of our most majestic birds, from eagles to loons to condors, pay a terrible price."  Read more of Ted Williams article published in Audubon magazine.

Iowans Support Water and Land Legacy Amendment

By a clear and overwhelming majority Iowans declared their support in 2010 for the values behind Iowa’s Water & Land Legacy amendment – clean water, soil conservation, and restoration of wetlands to help prevent future floods. 

Almost 63 percent of Iowa voters approved the amendment that establishes the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.  Trust funds can be used to support only voluntary initiatives, and not regulatory or enforcement actions. See the formula for distribution of funds.  In the future, if the Iowa Legislature increases the state sales tax, the first 3/8 cent of that increase will be devoted to conservation. The amendment does not increase taxes; it prioritizes conservation as a recipient of any future increases in the state sales tax.  Learn more about Iowa's Water and Land Legacy.  


Protect America's Heritage

Eagles are dying from lead poisoning, the result of eating deer carcasses shot with lead ammunition. Deer hunters can protect bald eagles from lead poisoning by switching to non-lead ammunition.  The Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club developed a brochure detailing the plight of the Bald Eagle and an accompanying poster.  The brochures and the posters will be sent to ammunition retailers encouraging their customers to choose alternative ammunition.  The materials are also available for organizations for their use.

Download the brochure. (pdf)

Download the poster. (pdf)

A PowerPoint presentation is also available.  Download the presentation or contact with your name and contact information if you'd like to reserve a copy.


Study says birds dying at 30 times rate reported

Kevin Timoney, an ecologist whose paper was published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, says birds likely are dying in oil sands tailings ponds at least 30 times the rate suggested by industry and government.  Read more from the Toronto Star here.


Report Released

The National Parks Conservation Association recently released its report "Dark Horizons: 10 National Parks Most Threatened by New Coal-Fired Power Plants."  The 10 parks include Badlands (South Dakota), Capitol Reef (Utah), Great Basin (Nevada), Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee and North Carolina), Mammoth Cave (Kentucky), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Shenandoah (Virginia), Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota), Wind Cave (South Dakota) and Zion (Utah).  Read the report here...



Threatened and Endangered Species Lists


Want to know what species are included in Iowa's list of threatened and endangered species?  Find out here...


A list of all endangered or threatened plants and animals in the United States can be found here...





Last updated 12.15.14


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Live Cam: Bald Eagles' Nest

Watch the family of Bald Eagles, including three eaglets, in their nest from the Decorah Eagle Cam.  See it live.


Live Cam: Great Blue Heron Nest

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, has set up two cameras showing a nest of Great Blue Herons.  Watch now.



Celebrating 50 Years of American Wilderness

Preserving and Protecting Iowa's Wild Lands and Wildlife

The Greatest Gift for a Child -- Time spent outdoors

Dove Hunting


UPDATE:  Gov. Terry Branstad issued Executive Order 77 on May 11, 2012, "to correct a Senate failure" for not debating the resolution that would rescind the lead ammunition ban on hunting Mourning Doves. Branstad's order indicates that "...the Iowa rule banning use of traditional shot by hunters because the determination of whether hunters should be forced to stop using traditional lead shot is the role of the legislature, not an unelected NRC [Natural Resource Commission]." Read the Executive Order.


Dove Hunting Bill Fast-Tracked Through Legislature

Rep. Richard Arnold (R-Lucas) filed an amendment to a raccoon hunting bill that completely gutted references to raccoons and completely replaced the language  prior to adoption to hunt mourning doves.  Read what happened and see how the House voted.


Dove Hunting Rules


The Natural Resources Commission (NRC)  adopted adding Mourning Doves to Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 97 covering hunting seasons.  The first hunting season began in September 2011.

In 2014, the Mourning Dove hunting season lasted from September 1 through November 9 (71 days) in all 99 Iowa counties. Each hunter was entitled to a daily limit of 15 birds with a possession limit of 30.

DNR has prepared 113 public sites for dove hunting that include food plots the doves find attractive where hunters can go. The agency has also provided information for the development of food plots on private land. To non-hunters, planting seeds that doves find attractive for food may seem like baiting. However, according to the DNR, technically "baiting" involves simply throwing seeds on the ground. Food plots are required to be planted and the doves eat the seeds after they fall on the ground.

Sierra Club continues to oppose the hunting of Mourning Doves in Iowa.


Download, print and post a "No Hunting" sign to protest your opposition to dove hunting in Iowa.


The Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee heard a briefing from the DNR about a dove hunting season on May 10.

Listen to the discussion and public comments -- including the Sierra Club.

DNR to plant “food plots” to lure doves for hunters -- Radio Iowa, 5/11/11.

DNR wants legislators to call the shots on new hunting restriction -- Radio Iowa, 5/11/11.

Proposed Sept. 1 Iowa dove hunting season remains on track -- Cedar Rapids Gazette, 5/11/11.

US Fish & Wildlife Service "Mourning Dove Population Status, 2010."

A recent study by PLoS ONE in the United Kingdom shows that game birds that have been shot with lead shot and cooked for food have above the allowable level of lead.  Read the study "Exposure to Lead in Game."


Lead Poisoned Eagle

Save Our Avian Raptors videotaped a Bald Eagle showing common symptoms of lead poisoning.  The eagle's blood tested high for lead.  Watch the video.


Priceless or Worthless?

A report of the 100 most threatened animals, plants and fungi from around the world.  Compiled by 8,000 scientists for the Zoological Society of London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  Scroll down to download the report (9.3 MB pdf).


What a Wonderful World

Sir David Attenborough narrated a commercial for the British Broadcasting Company that reminds us how fragile our planet Earth really is.  See the two-minute video.


Explore the World of Birds and Biodiversity

Watch footage of birds and wildlife from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The three-minute video shows birds and wildlife from around the world.


Make a non-deductible donation to the Iowa Chapter.

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