[Federal Register: April 13, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 70)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 17992]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 17992]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 32

Establishing ``Lead Free Fishing Areas'' and the Prohibition of 
the Use of Certain Fishing Sinkers and Jigs Made With Lead on Specific 
Units of the National Wildlife Refuge System

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to file a proposed change in specific refuge 


SUMMARY: We intend to promulgate regulations that would prohibit the 
use of fishing sinkers and jigs that are made of lead or lead alloys on 
units of the National Wildlife Refuge System where mortality of common 
loons from lead sinker ingestion has occurred or where concerns exist 
because habitat use by loons and significant fishing activities 
overlap. When refuges meet this criteria, we intend to establish ``Lead 
Free Fishing Areas'' and promulgate regulations on the use of lead 
sinkers and jigs. Each refuge we select will have specific regulations 
promulgated which will phase in over a two-year period, prohibit the 
use of lead sinkers and jigs, and establish a ``Lead Free Fishing 
Area'' in all refuge waters. This action will not close any refuge unit 
to sport fishing, but only prohibit the use of lead fishing sinkers and 

DATES: Please provide your comments by May 13, 1999.

ADDRESSES: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuges,1849 C 
Street, NW, MS-70 ARLSQ, Washington, DC 20240, Attention: Jon D. 
Kauffeld, e-mail Jon__Kauffeld@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon D. Kauffeld, 703-358-2383, FAX: 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge 
System (System) is to administer a national network of lands and waters 
for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of 
the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the 
United States for the benefit of present and future generations of 
Americans. We encourage recreational fishing that is compatible with 
this mission and with the purposes for which each individual refuge is 
established. Currently 307 of the 516 National Wildlife Refuges are 
open to fishing.
    It is well documented that lead is toxic to both humans and 
wildlife. In areas where recreational angling and loon populations co-
occur, lead poisoning from swallowing lead sinkers and jigs accounts 
for 10-50% of recorded loon mortality. In the New England states, the 
mortality from ingesting lead sinkers and jigs is the most significant, 
single factor for mortality in over 50% of adult breeding loons. 
Michigan's Rose Lake Wildlife Research Center collected similar 
evidence where 40% of loon carcasses examined had died from lead 
poisoning. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency documented 17% of 
adult loons died from lead poisoning. A review of 15 years of bird data 
in Ontario has shown that 27% of the adult loons had fishing tackle in 
their gizzards and high lead levels in their blood.
    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, which was 
recently amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 
of 1997, provides us with broad authority to offer and regulate 
recreational opportunities throughout the System, including the 
authority to regulate the use of lead fishing tackle. We intend to 
phase-in ``Lead-Free Fishing Areas'' on refuges where common loons are 
at risk of lead poisoning from swallowing lost or discarded fishing 

sinkers and jigs. During the first year of the phase-in, we will 
educate anglers about the benefits of non-toxic tackle for wildlife. 
During the first and second year of the phase-in, anglers will be able 
to trade-in their lead sinkers and jigs for non-toxic substitutes. 
After the two year phase-in, we will require anglers to fish with lead-
free sinkers and jigs in all refuges designated ``Lead Free Fishing 
    We will identify the affected refuges as part of our annual, June 
1999, proposed rule which outlines refuge-specific public use 
regulations. The final rule, to be published in 50 CFR part 32, will be 
effective in the fall of 1999. This action will not close any refuge 
unit to sport fishing, but only prohibit the use of certain fishing 
sinkers and jig heads. In those areas where we do not have jurisdiction 
over navigable waters that flow through or border our lands, we will 
seek the cooperation of the affected State to reduce the risk of lead 
poisoning to common loons.

    Dated: March 18, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
[FR Doc. 99-8982 Filed 4-12-99; 8:45 am]