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Court Rules For AZ Conservation Group in Lead Ammo Case

Arizona conservation groups can sue the U.S. Forest Service over the use of lead ammunition by hunters in the Kaibab National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
Arizona conservation groups can sue the U.S. Forest Service over the use of lead ammunition by hunters in the Kaibab National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
January 14, 2016

TUCSON, Ariz. - A federal appeals court has ruled that a trio of conservation groups can move forward with a lawsuit to ban hunters' use of lead ammunition in Arizona's Kaibab National Forest.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council sued the U.S. Forest Service in 2012, calling lead ammunition a "grave danger" to wildlife, particularly the endangered California condor. Sandy Bahr is the director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

"The win in the 9th Circuit says yes, these groups have standing to move forward with this litigation," says Bahr. "And that's really important, because we frequently act on behalf of people and animals that have no voices."

The suit is limited to hunting in the Kaibab National Forest, a 1.6 million-acre preserve on both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. Bahr says lead ammunition is illegal in many other parts of the country, and that banning it is critical to condors and other birds of prey in the Kaibab region.

She says the main problem with lead ammunition is that it is not only used to hunt and kill endangered species, but that the lead itself poisons the ecosystem.

"Condors are scavengers," says Bahr. "So when someone shoots something and leaves it out on the land, they're leaving a toxin and the condors come along and eat that and they eat those lead fragments."

The appeals court ruling sends the case back to federal district court for a hearing and possible trial. The Forest Service did not return a call requesting a comment on the case.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ