In October of 2007, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 821 which banned the use of lead ammunition from areas of the state inhabited by the California Condor, a federal endangered species. The signing marked a great victory for Audubon California and other organizations that had fought for years to remove the toxic substance from the Condors’ environment.
Condors frequently feed on animal carcasses left behind by hunters, and ingest dangerously high levels of lead from ammunition. In the last 10 years, it is estimated that roughly 30 Condors have died from lead poisoning in this manner.
The new law was authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, and will require the use of non-lead centerfire ammunition within the Department of Fish and Game’s deer hunting zones within current and potential condor range in California beginning July 1, 2008. Lead-free ammunition is increasingly available and it is expected to have no effect on hunters’ enjoyment of their sport. To the extent funding is available, big game hunters in these hunting zones will get coupons for non-lead ammunition at no or reduced charge.
Audubon California was an active advocate on behalf of the new law, lobbying for the lead ban at both the legislative and policy levels, as well as conducting an aggressive public awareness campaign through the media. Audubon California also gathered the best science available on the issue, an effort that resulted in 45 prominent wildlife biologists signed a “Statement of Scientific Agreement” concluding that lead ammunition was poisoning the California Condor and threatening its survival in the wild.