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Lead shot ban on hold in Iowa

January 20, 2012 at 02:06 PM

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa approved the hunting of mourning doves nearly a year ago, but the issue resurfaced Thursday at the state Capitol when a Senate panel discussed whether targeting the birds with lead-shot ammunition could indirectly harm other animals.

The state’s Natural Resources Commission last year unanimously recommended that lead-shot ammunition be banned in dove hunting. A legislative committee put the ban on hold, but it would take effect if lawmakers don’t reverse the rule before adjourning in a few months.

If lead shot is banned, steel-shot ammunition would still be allowed.

Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, said the commission overstepped its bounds in attempting to ban lead shot.

“These appointed people decided that they were going to make law,” said Dearden, who has championed dove hunting for 16 years.

Environmental advocates told committee members that ingesting lead shot could harm or kill animals. Neila Seaman of the Sierra Club said lead-shot ingestion in mourning doves has been documented for more than 50 years, and secondary ingestion by predators and scavengers can be harmful.

But hunting advocates said the harm is minor and there aren’t comparable alternatives to lead shot. Terry Little of the Iowa Outdoor Partnership said the impact of lead shot on mourning doves is minimal, and there is no good research to show it hurts other species.

The real issue, Little said, is the increased cost and inconvenience of using steel shot, which some hunters think does not perform as well.

“Right now, there isn’t a very good alternative to go through the hassle to change it,” said Little, a former Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. “Maybe down the road we’ll all be there, but let’s do this in a structured manner.”

Dearden attributes the furor over lead shot as an offshoot of those that opposed the successful legalization of dove hunting last session.

“This whole lead shot issue is 90 percent anti-mourning dove hunting people,” Dearden said, who also said dove hunting is “in for good now” unless the Legislature bans it again.

But Seaman said the issue isn’t settled, and she saw the banning of lead shot as a possible way of doing that.

“It’s polarizing,” she said. “We thought it was a fair compromise.”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, who opposed Dearden’s resolution, said the Natural Resources Commission was within its statutory rights and appreciated its decision to ban lead shot.

“What is the purpose of spreading what we know to be a toxic material around our landscape?” Bolkcom said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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