BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                              1






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          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                Senator Darrell Steinberg, Chair                 |
          |                    2007-2008 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
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          BILL NO:  AB 821                   HEARING DATE:  June 26, 2007
          AUTHOR:  Nava                      URGENCY:  no
          VERSION:  April 19, 2007           CONSULTANT:  Bill Craven
          FISCAL:  yes                       
          SUBJECT:  California Condors
          
          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
          The purpose of this bill is to protect California condors from  
          eating carrion that may have been killed by hunters who use  
          ammunition that is manufactured with and contains lead. Lead  
          poisoning has caused the death of several California condors  
          that were released into the wild. California condors are  
          designated as fully protected species, the most protective  
          category in state law, and have been the subject of a well-known  
          captive breeding program that is designed to avoid the  
          extinction of these birds. 

          Existing law establishes a process housed at the Department of  
          Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission for regulating  
          hunting and fishing, and a separate regulatory process for the  
          protection of endangered species. California has no statute that  
          prohibits the use of lead ammunition that could be used in an  
          otherwise lawful fashion to kill game animals that, in turn, may  
          be eaten by California condors. 

          Nationally, lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl is prohibited  
          federally by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill 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. Coyotes are specifically included  
          because they are not designated as big game by the Department of  
          Fish and Game. The author believes this area is limited to  
          California's condor habitat. The bill also 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.  On an annual basis, the Commission is to update the  
          list of certified non-lead ammunition.

          The bill also would require 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. If this program is  
          implemented, the bill would require the Commission to report on  
          lead levels in California condors and on the usage and  
          redemption rates for the non-lead ammunition coupon program. 


                Related 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 in1996, 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. According to the author, 60% of Arizona  
               hunters surveyed reported that non-lead ammunition was  
               "excellent" or "above average" and that 75% of them would  
               recommend it to their fellow hunters. Nearly 80% said that  
               it performed as well as or better than lead ammunition. 

          The bill provides that violations would be 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.

          The bill proposes to name this program in honor of the  
          Ridley-Trees, a philanthropic couple from Santa Barbara that  
          contributed significant sums to condor research.

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          The author has introduced this bill to address threats to the  
          California condor from lead poisoning. He has provided the  








          Committee with significant scientific literature that confirms  
          that lead ammunition is having a deleterious effect on the  
          condor and the efforts of conservation organizations, both  
          public and private, to recover this species. Condors routinely  
          scavenge on prey species that have been killed by lead  
          ammunition, and they ingest bullet fragments. Despite  
          long-standing voluntary educational efforts that ask hunters not  
          to leave the remains of field-dressed prey (especially deer) in  
          the wild, that practice nevertheless continues, and the result  
          is that these remains are consumed by other wildlife, including  
          condors. The resulting lead poisoning is jeopardizing the  
          long-term survival of the species.  The author notes that  
          although lead is strictly limited in other contexts, and has  
          been prohibited from use in waterfowl hunting, this highly toxic  
          substance is still routinely encountered by wildlife in the form  
          of by-products from lead ammunition.  Numerous studies show that  
          condors experience highly elevated blood levels as a result of  
          ingesting lead 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. 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.

          The reintroduction program has met with modest 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.

          In 2006, three new studies were released on condors and lead.   
          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 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 that is threatening the recovery of condors in  








          the wild.  

          Another 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 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 that 26  
          condors had received emergency chelation treatment to reduce  
          toxic lead levels.  (Since that study was released, the author  
          provided updated statistics stating that at least nine condors  
          have died from lead poisoning, including one in California, two  
          in Utah, and six in Arizona.) 

          As an aside, the company that owns Tejon Ranch, a 270,000 acre  
          privately owned ranch in Southern California, announced 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."            

          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.   

          Other supporters, such as the California League of Conservation  
          Voters, assert that the toxicity of lead is undisputed, and note  
          the great amount of time and effort that has been dedicated to  
          saving the condor.  They argue that the value of these majestic  
          birds 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.

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          Opponents of this bill, which include gun manufacturers and  
          sportsmen's groups, argue that there is no irrefutable  
          scientific proof that it hunters' bullets have caused 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  
          irrefutably conclusive evidence.  The California Sportsman's  
          Lobby and others assert that banning lead ammunition based on  
          incomplete information, speculation or even scientific consensus  
          is unadvisable.  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. 
             
          COMMENTS 
          Staff is aware of possible regulatory action on this topic at  
          the Fish and Game Commission. This bill, if implemented, would  
          not prevent the adoption of regulations that are consistent  
          with, or even potentially more restrictive than the proposed  
          statute, provided that the regulations are otherwise consistent  
          with the commission's authority.  

          In consultation with the Committee, the author has agreed to  
          simplify the geographic description to which the bill would  
          apply in order to make these restrictions more transparent to  
          hunters. Those amendments (Amendments 2 and 3) are reflected  
          below and will be adopted by the author at the hearing. 

          Additionally, two technical amendments are suggested. One  
          clarifies that the bill is limited to hunting with rifles and  
          pistols, and the other changes the date by which the Commission  
          must act to no later than July 1, 2008. This is necessary since  
          the bill would become effective on January 1, 2008, if it is  
          passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. 

          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 

          AMENDMENT 1  
          Page 2, line 11, after "game" add "with rifle or pistol" 
          
          AMENDMENT 2 
          Page 2, lines 12-18. Delete the geographic definition and  
          replace with: "within the department's deer hunting zone A  
          South, but excluding Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, San  
          Mateo and San Joaquin Counties, areas west of Highway 101 within  
          Santa Clara County, and areas between Highway 5 and Highway 99  
          within Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and  
          Kern Counties;' and within deer hunting zones D7, D8, D9, D10,  
          D11 and D13." 









          AMENDMENT 3 
          Page 3, lines 1-6. Delete the geographic definition and replace  
          with: "within the department's deer hunting zone A South, but  
          excluding Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San  
          Joaquin Counties, areas west of Highway 101 within Santa Clara  
          County, and areas between Highway 5 and Highway 99 within  
          Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern  
          Counties;' and within deer hunting zones D7, D8, D9, D10, D11  
          and D13."

          AMENDMENT 4
          Page 2, line 19. Change the date to "On or before July 1, 2008"
               
          SUPPORT
          Action for Animals
          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
          Animal Switchboard
          Audubon California
          California Coastal Protection Network
          California League of Conservation Voters
          Cooper Ornithological Society
          Defenders of Wildlife
          Environment California
          National Parks Conservation Association
          Paw Pac
          Planning and Conservation League
          Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
          Santa Barbara Zoo
          Sierra Club California
          The Humane Society
          The Zoological Society of San Diego
          Ventana Wildlife Society
          Vote the Coast
          Western Alliance for Nature
          3 Individuals

          OPPOSITION
          California Association of Firearms Retailers
          California Outdoor Heritage Alliance
          California Rifle and Pistol Association
          California Sportsman's Lobby 
          Crossroads of the West Gun Shows
          Department of Fish and Game
          Gun Owners of California
          National Rifle Association of America








          National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
          Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California
          Safari Club International
          Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc.
          1 Individual