SALEM — One year ago this month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began a controversial government survey on lead ammunition that sparked applause from environmentalists and condemnation from gun rights activists.

Today, both sides are still waiting for the results.

In June 2014, the ODFW said it would spend more than $40,000 to poll 4,200 Oregon hunters on their use of lead ammunition, a common component in many calibers of bullets.

{img:76346}Media reports at the time said the survey results would be released by next winter—but that deadline is now long since past. Last month, a source within ODFW told a Capital Bureau reporter that releasing the data might jeopardize an Oregon State University professor’s chances of publishing the results in an academic journal.

Dana Sanchez, the OSU extension wildlife specialist who collaborated with Fish and Wildlife for the canvass, said she won’t start writing the paper until the fall term.

“I didn’t ask them to delay publication,” she said. “They requested that I design the survey… And in turn I said I would be able to develop scientific articles.”

“I haven’t even opened (the file) up,” Sanchez said. “I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to give you at this time.”

Ron Anglin, ODFW’s Wildlife Division administrator, said he had received all the survey data but hadn’t completed any of the write up. He said the department was planning to release a high-level summary of the data, but refused to estimate when that or the full survey results would be released.

“I’ve missed the last three or four deadlines, so I’d rather not say.” Anglin said by phone. “I just haven’t been able to get it done. The goal is to get it done as soon as possible.”

The survey results have drawn interest and ire from two of nature’s bitterest enemies: Environmentalists and gun rights activists. Advocates on both sides agree, however, that the ammo survey may be part of preliminary campaign to ban lead bullets in Oregon.

Ban upporters say lead bullets endanger millions of birds — not necessarily by being shot into them — but because deadly toxins accrete in apex predators who ingest the bullet fragments left in small game corpses. Birds of prey sometimes scavenge on “gut piles” left behind after hunters clean carcasses in the wild.

Opponents say banning lead ammunition will lead to a reduction in hunting license revenue to the state and to the economic impact generated by the sport. They also say there aren’t any cheap alternative materials available.

Lori Ann Burd, a staff attorney and program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said leadership changes at the department may have delayed the survey’ data’s release.

“This probably isn’t the first thing on their plate,” she said.

Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said it was possible the results of the ODFW survey had been suppressed.

“One could reach the obvious conclusion that they didn’t get the results they wanted,” he said.

This story first appeared in the Oregon Capital Insider newsletter. To subscribe, go to oregoncapitalinsider.com

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