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Minnesota DNR says it won't ban use of lead ammunition, fishing tackle

It had received a petition from environmental and conservation groups.

The Minnesota DNR has said it won't implement a ban on fishing tackle or hunting ammo containing lead or other toxic metals, after considering a petition from environmental groups.

The petition was received on Sept. 3, with the groups asking the DNR to ban the possession and use of lead or other toxic fishing tackle in waters within the common loon range, and ban the taking of wild animals while using bullets or shot containing lead.

But on Monday, the DNR said that after "careful consideration" and the review of more than 20 years of data, it has denied the petition.

Among the reasons the DNR gave for rejecting the plea was because it's not sure it has the authority, and notes that such a request should be taken up by the Minnesota Legislature.

The DNR also said that the petition had a "lack of data concerning the impact of the proposed rule," and also didn't have broad support among stakeholders concerned with the state's hunting, fishing and environmental communities.

"Consistent with the approach taken in most other states that have imposed restrictions on lead ammunition and tackle, the DNR believes the use of lead ammunition and tackle is best addressed by the Minnesota legislature," the DNR said.

"A decision of this magnitude must involve engagement with the full range of stakeholders that could be affected by the decision."

Nonetheless, it did say that the use of lead ammo and tackle does warrant further study and discussion as it relates to the health and environmental impacts.

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Concern about lead poisoning from hunting and fishing equipment has been raised before by, among others, The Raptor Center, which says 90 percent of the bald eagles admitted to the center each year have elevated lead residues in their blood, of which up to a quarter die from it or have to be euthanized.

While Minnesota already bans the use of lead ammo for waterfowl hunting, it hasn't been extended to other forms of hunting, despite efforts of the DNR itself to make it apply to wild turkey, grouse and pheasant hunting on several wildlife management areas in the state.

But the Pioneer Press reported there remains some debate in scientific quarters as to the impact of lead poisoning, with DNR wildlife program manager Steve Merchant admitting in 2017 they "don't have science" that shows it negatively impacts a whole population.

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