The Short Life of Director’s Order No. 219

On January 9, 2017, while the nation was focused on the next day’s inauguration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) dropped a bombshell. Dan Ashe, on his last day as Director, issued Director’s Order No. 219, which was designed to, “Require the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters, and facilities by January 2022.” As far as anglers were concerned, this effectively banned lead sinkers and other fishing gear on any water administered by the USFWS.

How could such a sweeping change be issued by a Director who was literally walking out the door on his last day on the job? Surely he had consulted with state fish and wildlife agencies?

Nope.

Even though the order states the USFWS must, “Collaborate with state fish and wildlife agencies in implementing this policy,” that didn’t happen. In fact, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) said they were in “utter dismay” over the decision. Association President Nick Wiley stated that, “this action flies squarely in the face of a long and constructive tradition of states working in partnership with the Service to effectively manage fish and wildlife resources.”

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

Anglers weren’t the only ones upset by this last-minute order. On February 7, 62 U.S. Representatives from 28 states signed onto a letter asking President Trump to overturn this order. In their letter, the Representatives noted, “Issued on the last full day of the previous administration, FWS sought no input from industry, sportsmen, and conservationists to aid in its decision.”

On March 1, the United States Senate confirmed U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the nation’s 52nd Secretary of the Interior. An avid hunter and fishermen, Secretary Zinke wasted no time in throwing out Director’s Order No. 219. In fact, he issued a Secretarial Order overturning it on his very first day on the job.

Whether Director’s Order No. 219 was a political stunt, a well-meaning but ill-conceived initiative, or just a bad idea, we can all agree that this type of decision should never be made in a vacuum. Agencies like the Department of the Interior need to consult with their peers at the state level, scientists and experts, and the stakeholders who are affected by these decisions before making any decision of this nature.  To borrow a line from the Representatives letter to the President, “Dialog between federal agencies and the industries and people they serve is essential to good governance.”