Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends
US & World

Lawsuit aims to protect California condors from lead bullets

Marc P Jones/Flickr

The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Sierra Club have announced the combined intention to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to protect endangered California condors from toxic lead poisoning in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest.

As reported by, Arizona’s California condors are the world’s most endangered species, and that lead poisoning — due to lead-based ammunition used by hunters entering the condor's food chain — is avoidable thanks to the availability of nontoxic alternatives. As recently as 2006, 95 percent of Arizona’s condor population suffered from lead poisoning, with an estimated 12 to 14 dying from it. Up to 70 percent of the birds have been treated for lead exposure.

“At a time when other agencies are stepping up efforts to get toxic lead out of the food chain, the U.S. Forest Service continues to bury its head in the sand, refusing to exercise its authority to protect wildlife on its lands and prevent the needless lead poisoning of Arizona’s condors,” said Jay Lininger, a conservation advocate with the Center For Biological Diversity. “If we want condors to survive, we must stop using ammunition that contaminates their food supply with toxic lead, especially on our national forests.”

The notice, provided under the Endangered Species Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, makes a point to emphasize the full effect of the exposure.

“Lead poisoning is a huge problem, not just for the condor but for other wildlife and even humans,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter to ENews Park Forest. “Nonlead ammunition is now available for virtually all hunting uses, including the 22 rimfire ammunition, previously thought to be technically infeasible. Our national forests should lead the way in protecting the magnificent condors of the Grand Canyon region from further lead poisonings.”

California has already switched over to mandatory lead-free ammunition in the condor range. There are no ammunition restrictions in Arizona, and hunting is allowed in a majority of Kaibab National Forest.