The third time was finally the charm in a long running case seeking to ban the use of lead ammunition on Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. On Friday, September 1st, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a case in which anti-hunting organizations challenged the Forest Service’s decision to allow the use of lead ammunition for hunting on Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. The plaintiffs asserted a novel legal theory, arguing that the Forest Service violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a law that largely applies to require the cleanup of manufacturing and similar contaminated sites. The case had been ongoing since 2012. SCI, the National Rifle Association, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation jointly intervened in the litigation to defend the Forest Service’s deference to state law allowing use of lead ammunition for hunting and sport-shooting (subject to a voluntary ammunition “swap” program).
This was the plaintiffs’ third appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Twice previously, the Forest Service, SCI, and its partner organizations had prevailed in the district court. However, both times, the appellate court overturned the lower court’s orders dismissing the case. But this time, the Ninth Circuit finally agreed that the case should be dismissed because the Forest Service does not “contribute” to the use of lead ammunition by deferring to the State of Arizona’s hunting regulations. Thus, the plaintiffs did not bring a valid claim under RCRA, which only holds liable an entity that “contributes” to the accumulation of “solid waste” in the environment.
This case represents a real victory for hunting and sport shooting. A ruling for the plaintiffs could have opened the way to future lawsuits trying to use federal anti-pollution laws against hunting with traditional ammunition. Fortunately, SCI and its partner organizations succeeded in this case, and will continue to defend traditional hunting methods, including the use of lead ammunition, on public lands throughout the country.