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State Gives In, Orders Steel-Shot-Only Season

September 30, 1987|United Press International

SACRAMENTO — The California Fish and Game Commission Tuesday bowed to a federal court decision banning the use of lead shot in waterfowl hunting, and authorized a steel-shot-only hunting season in 16 California counties. Meeting by telephone, commission members voted, 4-0, to go ahead with the steel-shot season, which begins Oct. 9 along the Colorado River and Oct. 10 in northeastern California.

The commission's action followed a decision in Sacramento Monday by federal Judge Raul Ramirez, who upheld the right of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to forbid the use of lead shot in waterfowl hunting in California.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to eliminate the use of lead shot anywhere in the United States by 1991. Biologists say that spent lead shot in wetlands is consumed by ducks and geese, many of which then die of lead poisoning. Bald eagles, which eat dead waterfowl, also get lead poisoning, biologists say.

Many hunting groups, however, favor lead shot, claiming it is more accurate and more likely to result in clean kills, rather than crippled birds. Hunters also claim that steel shot damages their guns.

Sensitive to hunter complaints, the commission challenged the steel-only rulings on the basis of an amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Service's budget. The amendment forbids the federal government to spend money to enforce lead shot bans in states that don't consent to it.

Ramirez ruled the amendment is not valid because of bird protection legislation and treaties with Canada and Mexico that give the secretary of the interior practically unlimited power to preserve endangered bird species.

California is the only state challenging the federal edict against lead shot this year.

The commission last year was forced to authorize a waterfowl season with steel shot only in parts of the northeastern California counties of Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen and Shasta.

This year the Fish and Wildlife Service is extending the lead ban to 12 more counties. They are Butte, Imperial, Yolo, Colusa, San Joaquin, Yuba, Contra Costa, Merced, Solano, Glenn, Sacramento and Sutter.

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