Scott Flaherty 916-978-6156
Decision Will Remove lead from 270,000 Acres in Condor Range
Los Angeles--The effort to recover the California condor, North America's largest and most rare of birds, got a huge boost last week from Tejon Ranch Company, California's largest private landowner and operator of the state's largest private hunting program.
At a press conference Friday, Feb. 23, the Tejon Ranch Company announced that it will discontinue the use of lead ammunition on its 270,000 acre privately-owned ranch which is located in the heart of condor country in southern California's Kern County. The lead-free ammunition requirement will apply to any hunting on Tejon Ranch after January 1, 2008, and apply to the more than 1,800 hunters that come to the ranch each year to hunt deer, elk, antelope, wild pigs, wild turkey and other game.
"We have a 170-year history of stewardship on the Ranch, which means when we learn a better way to manage our land's resources, we adapt. New studies make the risk imposed by lead ammunition very evident, so we decided to take the lead on this issue and discontinue the use of lead ammo on Tejon Ranch," said Robert A. Stine, president and chief executive officer of Tejon Ranch Company.
Tejon Ranch Company is California's largest private landowner and is the first in the state to voluntarily require hunters on its lands to use non-lead ammunition. The company worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Audubon California and other hunting and environmental organizations to design its new regulation.
"Twenty-five years ago the world's population of California condors was only 22 birds," said Steve Thompson, manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California-Nevada Operations Office. "Today, through the efforts of many, 70 condors fly freely above California. Today's historic decision by Tejon Ranch to eliminate lead from its hunting program is a major step forward in our efforts to recover this magnificent bird."
While tremendous progress has been made in bringing the bird back from the brink of extinction, poisoning from lead ammunition is regarded as the single greatest threat to the continued recovery of the California condor. Condors are highly sensitive to lead, and typically ingest the toxic metal when feeding on the carcasses (carrion) of animals shot with lead ammunition. Studies show even the smallest of fragments from lead bullets can cause lead poisoning in condors.
"This is a pro-condor, pro-conservation decision," Thompson said. " Hunters are strong conservationists and by using non lead ammunition, they contribute to condor recovery and to their legacy of conservation."
"Kudos from Audubon to the Tejon Ranch for not only making the right decision, but for its leadership role in ending the use of lead ammunition on the ranch," said Glenn Olson, vice president and executive director for Audubon California.
"Tejon's actions today not only protect the California condor from lead ammunition poisoning on the Ranch, but also demonstrate statewide that hunting and the protection of endangered species can go hand-in-hand," said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Urban Program.
The California condor was listed as an endangered species in 1967. From a low of 22 birds worldwide in the 1980s, the population of condors has grown to 270, primarily the result of captive breeding programs. The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to establish two geographically separate populations, one in California and the other in Arizona, each with 150 birds and at least 15 breeding pairs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies
More information on the California condor is available on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/hoppermountain/cacondor/