Sierra Club Home Page



Wildlands Conservation

NRA Tries to Block Effort to Protect Condors, Eagles From Toxic Lead Ammunition  

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 a 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 NRA has also championed legislation 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.

Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes
As part of the rulemaking to delist gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has also proposed to change the species status of a gray wolf subspecies which will inevitably assist the Service in de-listing wolves throughout 29 eastern states. Please contact Dan Ashe (202-208-4717) and the Department of the Interior and let them know what a bad decision this is, both scientifically and ethically.


Save Idaho Wolves
Federal sharpshooters are preparing to kill as many as 75 wolves in Idaho to artificially boost game populations. Please urge Dept of Agriculture head Tom Vilsack to stop the killing.


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

Or on Facebook:


America’s Natural Economy

America’s public lands include some of our most treasured places, icons from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone. A wide swath of the American public-- from outdoor equipment manufacturers and retailers, to engineers and construction workers-- all benefit from the value of conserving our public lands. In addition, farmers, ranchers and city dwellers all rely on services such as clean air and clean water that protected places provide. America’s ability to thrive and safeguard jobs in the conservation economy depends upon maintaining strong federal conservation programs at every level.


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

Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report

Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently highlighted two projects in the state of Iowa that will be included in the final report — representing 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 will be highlighted in next week’s 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 is 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 full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.

“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Iowa and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”

The two projects in Iowa highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming 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.

To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.



Protect the Gray Wolf

The Endangered Species Act is one of our most cherished and respected environmental laws. Its power lies in the independent, scientific consultation at its heart. It's not the role of Congress to decide which species should receive protection and which shouldn't. But some legislators are pushing a bill during the lame duck session that would remove the gray wolf from protections under the Endangered Species Act.


Call your representatives now and tell them to keep the Endangered Species Act intact.

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 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.  


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.  Read the Federal Register notice.  EPA will continue to evaluate the petition request regarding fishing sinkers.


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.



National Ban on Lead-based Ammunition, Fishing Tackle Sought to End Wildlife Poisoning

A coalition of conservation, hunting and veterinary groups recently filed a formal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a ban on the use of toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. Major efforts to reduce lead exposure to people have greatly reduced the amount of lead in the environment, but toxic lead is still a widespread killer in the wild, harming bald eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered California condors and other wildlife.


An estimated 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning in the United States. This occurs when animals scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or pick up and eat spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.


American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Avian Veterinarians, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the hunters’ group Project Gutpile are asking for the ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates dangerous chemicals in the United States.


The petition references nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific studies that starkly illustrate the widespread dangers from lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels.


Lead ammunition also poses health risks to people. 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.


Read the petition to EPA.


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.


Burial Mounds Threatened by Construction


Effigy Mounds, one of only two sites in Iowa operated by the National Park Service (NPS) have been threatened by construction conducted by the NPS.  Read more here...


Learn more about Effigy Mounds.


Support America's Red Rock Wilderness Act

The red rock canyonlands of southern Utah is one of our nation's most magnificent wild landscapes. Dominated by towering buttes and red sandstone plateaus, the great Colorado and Green Rivers have sliced deep, winding canyons.  Unfortunately, this spectacular landscape is threatened by oil and gas drilling and abuse by off-road-vehicles.

America's Red Rock Wilderness Act would give wilderness designation to more than 9 million acres of our federal public land in southern Utah, protecting this landscape forever.

Find out more 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...



Endangered Species Petition to Add the Mountain Lion to the list of Threatened and Endangered Species Rejected


In June 2005, the Natural Resources Commission rejected a petition to add the mountain lion to Iowa's list of threatened and endangered species.  Read the Department of Natural Resources report and recommendation 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 09.12.12


Back to top

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 "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)  approved at its April 2011 meeting adding Mourning Doves to Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 97 covering hunting seasons.  The rule went out for public comment which ended May 24, 2011.  The rule will come back to  the NRC for final approval at a future meeting.


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.

State officials urged to ban lead shot ammo for dove hunting -- The Des Moines Register, 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).  (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.

  Official PayPal Seal

Acceptance Mark


You can also make a tax deductible donation to the Iowa Chapter.





 Sierra Club