Move to Ban Lead Ammo in Arizona’s Kaibab Forest Revived

Groups seeking a ban on lead ammunition in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest have won another chance to protect endangered condors from ingesting the lead shot left in animal carcasses.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco Thursday ordered a new hearing for the environmental groups seeking to protect scavenger wildlife that may die after eating carcasses that were killed by lead bullets.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council brought the suit in 2012 against the US Forest Service.

The trial judge in Arizona initially dismissed the case saying the court lacked jurisdiction because what they really wanted was an advisory opinion from the court.

But the unanimous 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel disagreed. It cited provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which includes a”citizens’ suit” provision that allows people to file a claim against anyone, including the government, who contributes to disposal of any solid or hazardous waste that poses a threat to the environment.

In addition, the panel said that a ruling in favor of the groups would require the Forest Service to mitigate use of lead shot in some manner, not necessarily a ban.

The case could be particularly important for endangered California condors, which are scavengers, because just 73 were alive in the Southwest at the time the case was filed.

The US has banned us of lead bullets for waterfowl hunting nationwide since 1991. Despite the US Forest Service authority to regulate use of lead it does not regulate hunting in Kaibab apart from a few narrow restrictions.

Intervening in the case on the side of the government was the NRA, Safari Club International and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The opinion was by Judge Marsha Berzon, joined by Michelle Friedland and visiting Texas federal judge Kathleen Cardone.

Case: Center for Biological Diversity v. USFS, 17-15790

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