While the recent decision by California lawmakers and the California governor to phase in a ban on the use of lead ammunition for hunting is a step in the right direction toward reducing lead contamination statewide and will assuredly and dramatically reduce the number of lead-poisoned wildlife, the poster child for this effort is clearly one of America's most iconic and threatened birds -- the California Condor.
In a perfect world, we could all accept as fact what hundreds of studies by well-respected institutions have shown: Lead ammunition is responsible for the poisoning deaths of millions of birds in the United States annually.
The problem in the case of the condor is that the switch to non-lead ammunition has not been happening fast enough. Clearly, something is broken when half the mortality of one of our most endangered birds is from lead poisoning even in spite of Herculean efforts to round up as many condors as possible to test for and treat those that are lead poisoned but haven't yet succumbed to it.
The hunting community has done a lot to promote better wildlife conservation over the years. And in that spirit, California regulators gave the voluntary approach a fair chance. Let's hope the state can work out the few technical issues in the legislation. Those actions will no doubt save more condors -- as well as the many other species that would otherwise be poisoned by lead.
President, American Bird Conservancy