?Our goal is to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in parks by the end of 2010,? National Park Service director, Dan Wenk, commented last week.

He added: ?The reduction and eventual removal of lead on park service lands will benefit humans, wildlife and ecosystems inside and outside park boundaries and continue our legacy of resource stewardship.?

However, the US National Rifle Association (NRA) was quick to challenge the NPS?s science, highlighting that the restriction will force hunters to use more costly non-toxic ammunition.

Chris W. Cox from the NRA said: ?The NPS announcement demonstrates either complete ignorance or complete arrogance as to the effect this policy will have on hunters. There is no science to support NPS?s contention that use of lead in hunting is causing environmental contamination, having a negative effect on wildlife or posing a threat to the health of visitors or park staff.?

The NPS announcement caught shooting organisations by surprise in the US, since no warning was given that the decision would be taken and little detail was supplied of the measures the NPS is proposing.

The National Shooting Sports Federation issued a statement that there has never been a documented case of lead poisoning among humans, and it referred to a recent study on North Dakota hunters which had confirmed there was no concern over eating game taken with lead ammunition.

Separately, shooters in the US are keen to promote their environmental credentials, having contributed approximately $5.6billion to help protect wildlife and habitat over the past 70 years through taxes paid on firearms and ammunition.

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