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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228


July 29, 1998

Dan Sobieck (MN, WI, IA, MI) 612/713-5403
Sharon Rose (ND, SD, NE, MT) 303/236-7917, x 415


Upland game hunters hunting on federal waterfowl production areas will be required to use nontoxic shot if rules proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are made final.

The rules, published in the July 27, 1998, Federal Register, would require those hunting on WPAs to possess only nontoxic shot such as steel, bismuth, or tungsten-iron. While the use of nontoxic shot has been a requirement for waterfowl hunting on WPAs since 1992, these restrictions would now apply to all hunters hunting waterfowl or upland game in WPAs. By federal law, all WPAs are open to public hunting, fishing and trapping.

"When birds ingest lead shot it’s deadly to them," said Director Ralph Morgenweck of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "The same is true if other animals like eagles and hawks feed on birds or bird carcasses which contain lead shot. This proposed rule would help reduce the lead poisoning hazard for all animals in waterfowl production areas," Morgenweck added.

Upland areas associated with wetlands provide important nesting cover for both waterfowl and upland birds like ring-necked pheasants, marsh hawks (also known as northern harrier) and meadowlarks. Traditionally, these upland areas have also been favored by small game hunters-- especially pheasant hunters--because of their ability to hold game. Because many of these areas are subject to seasonal flooding, shot pellets deposited during fall hunting seasons can later be ingested by waterfowl feeding in these areas during high water periods in the spring. The nontoxic shot rule would end the accumulation of lead in these areas.

Most WPAs are located in the duck-producing prairie pothole states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and Michigan also contain these important production areas. True to their name, WPAs -- which range in size from just under an acre to several thousand acres -- do produce waterfowl. Although WPAs and refuge lands in the prairie pothole region account for less than two percent of the habitat, they produce nearly 23 percent of the area’s waterfowl. Over 650,000 acres are designated as WPAs.

Nontoxic shot currently approved for use by the Service includes shot made of steel or bismuth. Tungsten-iron and tungsten-polymer shot, presently under review, are likely to be approved for the 1998/1999 hunting season. If approved, notice of approval would be published in the Federal Register in September. Nontoxic shot shells are available commercially in popular shotgun gauges and loads. Nontoxic shot is also available for those hunters who load their own shells and for those who use primitive muzzleloading firearms. Both modern (breechloading) and muzzleloading firearms used on WPAs are restricted to nontoxic shot use.

WPAs are part of the nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the primary federal agency responsible for the conservation and protection of fish, wildlife and their habitat. The National Wildlife Refuge System includes more than 93 million acres of land, including over 3,000 WPAs and 514 National Wildlife Refuges. Many refuges also offer fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Those interested in commenting on the proposed nontoxic shot rule are invited to write to

Assistant Director, ARW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1849 C Street NW, MS 670 ARLSQ, Washington, DC 20240.

All comments must be received within a 30-day public comment period which ends August 26, 1998. A final rule will be issued and published in the Federal Register following the public comment period. It is anticipated the final regulations will be in effect during the 1998-1999 hunting seasons.


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