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Law banning lead in tackle will protect loon population

My dad used to pack the family into our old car for an annual one day summer trip to the White Mountains. Visiting Uncle Ernest and Aunt Marjorie and our cousins who lived in Landaff was important. The other key stop was to visit the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch.

Like generations before him, my father found in the Old Man a tie to New Hampshire that made living in the Granite State special. He could talk on and on about the importance of the Old Man to our history and our uniqueness as a state.

The Old Man of the Mountain has been gone for a decade. In his absence, many feel the loon has risen as a symbol and a reflection of the beauty and wildness that remains in our state.

Sadly, the loon is threatened by fishing tackle containing lead.

After years of battles, the legislature passed Senate Bill 89 this year which bans the sale and freshwater use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less. To give anglers and retailers time to transition to tackle made from non toxic metals, the law will not go into effect until June 1, 2016.

During testimony last year and this year, there was compelling evidence of the lethal impact of lead fishing tackle on loons. Plastic bags of what had been found in dead loons autopsied at Tufts University over the years contained lead fishing sinkers and jigs. Those sinkers and jigs caused 49 percent of the state’s adult loon mortality between 1989 and 2011.

Experts told us loons do not breed until they are six or seven years old and produce one chick pair every two years on average. That means it is critical to the loon population that adults survive so they can continue to produce their chicks.

Loons have become an important reflection of New Hampshire for residents and visitors alike. Hearing the call of a loon or seeing them on our lakes and ponds gives us a sense of reassurance and well being. While the Old Man may be gone, I think my dad would have been pleased that we are doing what we can to preserve the loon, another icon of New Hampshire.

The Loon Preservation Committee and New Hampshire Lakes Association hosted a boat tour of Lake Sunapee on a recent Wednesday evening. The purpose was to bring together people interested in ensuring the long term viability of the loon population in our area.

I am very appreciative to the LPC for their gift of a beautiful framed Kittie Wilson photograph of a loon with a chick on its back taken on Pleasant Lake in New London. It was presented in recognition of my sponsorship of bills in the last couple of legislative sessions to protect the loons.

Bob Odell, a Republican, is the New Hampshire senator representing Antrim, Bennington and Francestown, among other towns.

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