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Lead-Free Landscapes

The National Wildlife Federation promotes the voluntary adoption of lead-free alternatives for hunters and anglers to ensure clean, lead-free landscapes that support healthy wildlife populations.

Northwoods Unleaded from NWF Outdoors on Vimeo.

Hunters and anglers have been the primary funders of wildlife conservation since the beginning of the conservation movement through license fees and excise taxes on equipment like ammunition. What we’ve learned in the past few decades, though, is that lead ammunition and tackle can poison non-target species like bald eagles scavenging gut piles and common loons ingesting lost lead sinkers. Additionally, lead fragments can taint game meat that hunters bring home to their families. A growing number of sportsmen and women are switching to non-lead alternatives for hunting and fishing for cleaner wild game and fewer impacts on nongame wildlife.

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a lead bullet and a copper bullet

A lead bullet (left) vs. a copper bullet (right)

More than 500 scientific studies published since 1898 have documented that, worldwide, 134 species of wildlife are negatively affected by lead ammunition.

For many years, the only options for hunters and anglers were ammunition and tackle that contained lead, which is toxic to all living organisms. The result is untold tons of lead spread across our landscapes and waterways, often concentrated at popular hunting and fishing locations. In 1991, a ban on using lead shot for hunting waterfowl brought about the rapid development of steel and other non-toxic shot choices. As a result, there are now highly effective alternatives to lead shot, bullets, and fishing gear, including steel and bismuth shot and copper bullets.

The National Wildlife Federation is working with hunters and anglers across the country to get the word out about safe and effective alternatives to lead shot, bullets, and tackle. Today’s non-toxic ammunition and tackle are high performance alternatives to lead that are reliable, accurate, and affordable. The benefits of lead alternatives include:

  • Cost-effectiveness and proven performance of steel shot
  • Better penetration and bullet retention of copper bullets
  • Healthier game meat
  • No poisoned non-target wildlife
  • Better public perception of hunting


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