Earlier this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill authored by 35th District Assemblyman Pedro Nava designed to prevent lead poisoning of the California condor.

The Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act was approved Oct. 13 and bans the use of lead ammunition in areas inhabited by the endangered species. According to a press release from the Defenders of Wildlife organization, 276 cases of lead poisoning in condors were documented in the last seven years.

Nava said he is confident in the legislation’s purpose.

“Science has proven, incontrovertibly, without question, that there is a direct link between lead ammunition and poisoned condors,” Nava said.

The birds become poisoned when they prey upon animals killed by lead ammunition. Nava said the goal is to protect the condors from human threats so that the species can regain its former numbers.

“Someday condors can take [care] of themselves and fly free and wild like they’re supposed to,” Nava said.

According to Nava, condors have historically lived and flown between Monterey and Ventura counties. The California Audubon Society estimates the condor population at 279. Of those, 70 are wild condors while the remaining birds are involved in captive breeding recovery efforts.

Several organizations favored Nava’s legislation, including the Humane Society, the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. However, the Nation Rifle Association opposed to the bill, criticizing it on its Web site.

“Studies show that a ban will force many hunters to quit hunting altogether, having catastrophic consequences on wildlife management practices and the state’s hunting heritage,” the press release stated.

When the bill comes into effect later this year, hunters will have to turn to alternate sources of ammunition, such as copper, when hunting in specified areas.

Nava said he first became concerned with this issue three years ago when he learned that efforts to help preserve condors were undermined primarily due to the use of lead ammunition. He said he has worked to change the situation since, and he received the Humane State Legislator of the Year Award for his actions earlier this month. He said he would like to see other legislators work to protect the condor.

“I am hoping other states will follow our example,” Nava said.