BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 821
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          Date of Hearing:   April 10, 2007

                   ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON WATER, PARKS AND WILDLIFE
                                  Lois Wolk, Chair
                  AB 821 (Nava) - As Introduced:  February 22, 2007
           
          SUBJECT  :   California Condors:  Non-lead Ammunition

           SUMMARY :   Enacts the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act  
          requiring the use of non-lead center-fire rifle and pistol  
          ammunition when taking big game or coyotes within specified  
          areas.  Specifically,  this bill :

          1)Requires the use of non-lead centerfire rifle and pistol  
            ammunition when taking big game or coyotes within parts of the  
            Department's deer hunting zone A South, and within zones D7,  
            D8, D9, D10, D11 and D13.

          2)Requires the Commission, by January 1, 2008, to establish by  
            regulation a public process to certify centerfire rifle and  
            pistol non-lead ammunition, and to define non-lead ammunition  
            as including only centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition in  
            which there is no lead content.  Requires the Commission to  
            annually update the list of certified non-lead ammunition.

          3)Requires the Commission, to the extent funding is available,  
            to provide coupons for free or reduced charge non-lead  
            ammunition to big game permit holders with permits to hunt in  
            the above zones.

          4)Requires the Commission to issue reports on lead levels in  
            California condors and on the usage and redemption rates for  
            the non-lead ammunition coupon program, if implemented.

          5)Makes a violation of this section an infraction punishable by  
            a fine of $500 for a first offense, and not less than $1,000  
            or more than $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

          6)States legislative intent to protect vulnerable wildlife  
            species, including the Condor, an endangered and fully  
            protected speices, from the ongoing threat of lead poisoning.


           EXISTING LAW  :  









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          1)Requires the Fish and Game Commission to establish lists of  
            endangered and threatened species.  Prohibits the taking of  
            any species the Commission has determined to be an endangered  
            or threatened species with limited exceptions.

          2)Designates the California condor as a fully protected species  
            under California state law.  The condor is also listed as  
            endangered under both federal and state law.

          3)Prohibits the use of lead ammunition to hunt waterfowl (U.S.  
            Fish and Wildlife Service regulation).

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Increased costs to DFG and the Fish and Game  
          Commission to promulgate regulations certifying non-lead  
          ammunition.  Increased costs for enforcement, potentially offset  
          by fines.

           COMMENTS  :

           1)Purpose  :  The author has introduced this bill to address  
            threats to the California Condor from lead poisoning.  The  
            author notes that there is ample evidence to support the  
            assertion that lead ammunition is having a devastating effect  
            on the condor and efforts to recover this species, and that  
            lead is adversely impacting other wildlife, particularly  
            raptors, as well as humans.  Despite vigorous ongoing efforts  
            to test free-flying condors' blood lead levels and administer  
            chelation treatment as needed, wild condors continue to die  
            from lead poisoning.  Condors routinely scavenge on prey  
            species that have been killed by lead ammunition, and  
            accidentally ingest or mistake bullet fragments for the  
            calcium-rich bone fragments they require.  The resulting lead  
            poisoning is jeopardizing the long-term survival of the  
            species.  The author notes that although lead is strictly  
            limited elsewhere, and has been prohibited from use in  
            waterfowl hunting, this highly toxic substance is still  
            routinely encountered by wildlife in the form of lead  
            ammunition.  Substantial evidence in the form of numerous  
            studies shows that condors experience highly elevated blood  
            levels as a result of ingesting lead fragments.

           2)Status of the California Condor  :  The California condor,  
            Gymnogyps Californianus, is North America's largest  
            terrestrial bird, with a wingspan of nine and a half feet.   
            The condor dates back to before the Pleistocene era and has  








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            inhabited this continent for at least 50,000 years.  The  
            condor is a member of the family Cathartidae, or New World  
            vultures.  Condors are scavengers and feed primarily on dead  
            carrion, which has been a source of ingested lead ammunition  
            fragments.

          The condor reached near extinction in the early 1980s, with less  
            than 30 individual birds left alive in the wild.  Condors do  
            not breed until they are six or eight years old, and normally  
            lay a single egg.  Key factors determined by biologists as  
            contributing to the decline of the condor include lead  
            poisoning and illegal shooting, in addition to habitat loss  
            and other factors.  Scientists determined that the only hope  
            for the condor's survival was to institute a captive breeding  
            program.  The last wild birds were captured in 1987, and an  
            intensive captive breeding program was instituted.  Biologists  
            began reintroducing condors back into the wild in 1992.

          Although condors once ranged over much of North America, by the  
            1940s their range had been reduced to the coastal mountains of  
            southern California.  Today they are being reintroduced into  
            the mountains of southern California north of the Los Angeles  
            basin, in the Big Sur vicinity of the central California  
            coast, and near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  The  
            reintroduction program has met with tenuous success.  Out of  
            67 condors released into the wild between 1992 and 2002, 32  
            died or were presumed dead.  The total population of condors  
            in California as of March 31, 2005 was 244 birds, 114 of which  
            were in the wild.

          While lead poisoning has been identified as one of the most  
            significant threats to condor survival, other threats include  
            but are not limited to electrocution from power lines and loss  
            of habitat.

           3)Related Legislation  :  This bill is substantially similar to AB  
            2123 (Nava) of last session, except that the area covered by  
            the ban on lead ammunition has been modified.  AB 2123 was  
            heard in this committee and failed by a vote of 7 to 8, one  
            vote short of passage.  Since then, additional studies further  
            documenting the connection between lead poisoning in condors  
            and lead ammunition have been published, a lawsuit has been  
            filed, and DFG staff has recommending banning lead ammunition  
            in the California condor range.









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           4)Studies on lead and condors  :  In 2006, three new studies were  
            released on condors and lead.  The most recent study of note  
            is an isotope study conducted by a team of scientists from the  
            University of California at Santa Cruz, Stanford University  
            and others, which was published in the journal Environmental  
            Science and Technology.  The study linked the lead isotope  
            compositions in condors to the lead isotopes in ammunition  
            samples.  The study concluded that incidental ingestion of  
            ammunition in carcasses of animals killed by hunters is the  
            principal source of elevated lead exposures threatening the  
            recovery of condors in the wild.  

          Another study released in 2006 conducted tests on condors at the  
            condor release site near Big Sur, CA.  This study, which was  
            conducted by scientists with the Ventana Wildlife Society,  
            tested 126 blood samples from 33 free-flying condors between  
            1998 and 2006.  The study found that blood lead levels of  
            condors were higher in the months of September and October,  
            which is deer hunting season, than other times of year.  One  
            condor from the Big Sur population died in southern California  
            due to lead poisoning and 2 additional birds were treated for  
            acute lead poisoning.  Blood lead levels were also found to be  
            significantly higher in released birds after only one year in  
            the wild.  

          A third study conducted in 2006 by the Peregrine Fund and the  
            Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at  
            Washington State University compared bullet fragments in  
            rifle-killed deer with deer killed with copper bullets.  The  
            study found over 90% of samples of deer killed with lead-based  
            bullets contained lead fragments, while only 6 fragments were  
            found in 4 whole deer killed with copper bullets, suggesting a  
            high potential for scavenger exposure to lead.

          Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California DFG  
            previously concluded that lead poisoning presents one of the  
            most serious obstacles to the condor's recovery.  A 2003 study  
            commissioned by DFG and conducted by biologist Dr. Michael Fry  
            at the University of California at Davis, determined that 35%  
            of released condors experienced acute lead poisoning by 2001.   
            The report, "An Assessment of Lead Contamination Sources  
            Exposing California Condors" finds that the risk to condors is  
            high because of the amount of carrion left in the field.  The  
            report found at least 4 condors had died from lead poisoning  
            since 1997, including one in California and 3 in Arizona, and  








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            that 26 condors had received emergency chelation treatment to  
            reduce toxic lead levels.  (Since that study was released,  
            updated statistics indicate that at least nine condors have  
            died from lead poisoning, including one in California, two in  
            Utah, and six in Arizona.) The report concluded that lead  
            exposure continues to be a very critical problem for both  
            California and Arizona condor populations.

          A report prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the  
            California Condor Lead Exposure Reduction Steering Committee,  
            a diverse group of hunters, conservation groups and wildlife  
            conservation agencies, found that an increasing number of  
            condors are being exposed to lead in greater amounts.  The  
            committee recommended that people who hunt in condor range  
            retrieve all animals killed from the field, hide carcasses or  
            gut piles by burying them, remove bullets and surrounding  
            impacted flesh, or use lead-free ammunition.

          According to the Ventana Wildlife Society, a nonprofit group  
            which has been involved with the reintroduction of condors in  
            Big Sur and Pinnacles National Monument, 13 condors have been  
            confirmed killed in Arizona and California, a third of which  
            were found to have high lead levels in their blood.  

           5)Tejon Ranch  , a 270,000 acre privately owned ranch in Southern  
            California, announced last month that it would ban the use of  
            lead ammunition on the ranch property starting in 2008.  Tejon  
            is the first major private hunting program in the state to  
            require the use of non-lead ammunition.  According to Robert  
            Stine, President and CEO of Tejon Ranch, "New studies make the  
            risk posed by lead ammunition very evident."            

           6)Regulatory and Legal Update  :  In December 2004, NRDC and  
            others petitioned the Fish and Game Commission to ban the use  
            of lead ammunition.  The Commission denied the petition,  
            citing insufficient evidence, but directed DFG to research the  
            issue and make recommendations for the Commission's 2007  
            mammal regulations update.  In September 2006, NRDC and other  
            plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Commission and the  
            Department alleging that state regulations which permit the  
            use of lead ammunition within the California condor range, and  
            the issuance of hunting licenses, violate the Endangered  
            Species Act.  The lawsuit is pending.  In February of 2007,  
            DFG staff released a recommendation that hunting with lead  
            bullets be banned everywhere in the California condor range.   








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            The Commission is scheduled to hear public testimony on the  
            DFG staff's recommendation at its April 13th meeting, and to  
            vote on the recommendation in May or June. 

           7)Arizona Program  :  The state of Arizona operates a free  
            non-lead ammunition coupon program, funded by state lottery  
            funds.  According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department,  
            since the condor reintroduction program began in that state in  
            1996, six condor deaths have been caused by lead poisoning.   
            Arizona confirmed through x-rays that these birds died from  
            ingesting lead shot gun pellets or fragments from lead rifle  
            bullets.  In at least 8 other cases, lead shot or fragments  
            were removed from the digestive tracts of live condors.   
            According to the state of Arizona, these birds had high blood  
            lead levels and might have died without the treatment they  
            received for acute lead toxicity.

           8)Opposition  :  Opponents of this bill, which include gun  
            manufacturers and sportsmen's groups, argue that there is no  
            irrefutable scientific proof that it is hunters' bullets that  
            have resulted in the lead poisoning death of California  
            condors, and point to a voluntary program initiated by DFG as  
            the preferable approach.  Opponents assert that further  
            research is needed and that a ban on lead ammunition in the  
            condor range is premature in the absence of absolute proof and  
            irrefutable, conclusive evidence.  The California Sportsman's  
            Lobby and others assert that banning lead ammunition based on  
            incomplete information, speculation or even scientific  
            consensus is inadvisable.  Crossroads of the West Gun Shows  
            also asserts that even a limited ban on lead ammunition for  
            hunting will have a significant adverse business impact on  
            ammunition retailers and gun shows.  The National Shooting  
            Sports Foundation notes that recent surveys of hunters show  
            that a majority of hunters (68%) oppose a mandatory ban on use  
            of lead ammunition, and that as many as 25% of hunters would  
            either quit hunting big game or hunt less in California if a  
            ban were adopted.  A decrease in hunting could result in a  
            loss of revenue to DFG from hunting license and tag sales,  
            taxes on ammunition sales, and other economic contributions  
            associated with hunting.          

           9)Support  :  The California League of Conservation Voters asserts  
            that the toxicity of lead is undisputed, and notes the great  
            amount of time and effort that has been dedicated to saving  
            the condor.  They argue that the value of these majestic birds  








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            transcends a cost-benefit analysis.  The Ventana Wildlife  
            Society emphasizes that this bill is not against hunting, and  
            argues that responsible hunters will accept a change to lead  
            ammunition, noting that nonlead ammunition is commonly  
            considered superior to lead in terms of ballistics.  They also  
            note that the cost to government, the public and those  
            involved in condor recovery is far greater than the cost to  
            hunters, since as long as lead remains in the food supply of  
            condors they will have to be intensively managed.  Defenders  
            of Wildlife, while applauding efforts to educate and encourage  
            hunters to use non-lead ammunition and bury their gut piles,  
            asserts that education alone has not been enough to address  
            the threat, making this legislation necessary.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support  
          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees  
          (AFSCME), AFL-CIO
          Action for Animals
          Animal Switchboard
          Audubon Society of California
          California Coastal Protection Network
          California League of Conservation Voters
          Cooper Ornithological Society
          Defenders of Wildlife
          Environment California
          Humane Society of the United States
          National Parks Conservation Association
          Planning and Conservation League
          Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
          Sierra Club California
          Ventana Wildlife Society
          Vote the Coast
          Western Alliance for Nature
          Zoological Society of San Diego
          Over 200 individuals

           Opposition  
          California Association of Firearms Retailers
          California Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc.
          Crossroads of the West Gun Shows
          Gun Owners of California
          National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
          Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California








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          Safari Club International, California Chapters
          The California Sportsman's Lobby, Inc.
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Diane Colborn / W., P. & W. / (916)  
          319-2096