Gun club agrees to seek permit for live pigeon shoots

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A wounded pigeon that was rescued during a shoot at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem.

A Bensalem gun club that conducts live pigeon shoots along the Delaware River has agreed to apply for an environmental permit to settle a federal lawsuit.

“There’s nothing that requires the club to stop shooting,” Philadelphia Gun Club lawyer Sean Corr said Friday. “This was a nuisance settlement to eliminate attorney’s fees going forward.”  

The club also agreed to pay $15,000 to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which filed suit in March.

The environmental group claimed the club was violating the federal Clean Water Act by discharging shot, casings, dead and dying pigeons and other material into the river without a permit.

The private club on State Road has staged shoots since the late 1800s. Animal-rights activists have opposed the activity for decades but have failed to convince state legislators to ban the shoots.

In the past few years, the environmental group has taken aim at the shoots from a new angle – water pollution and river safety.

The group and the club have been at odds over the need for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, network lawyer Nicholas Patton said.

“This is a big change in their position,” he said.

But the settlement does not require the club to obtain the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, the club’s lawyer said -- only to apply for it by Dec. 31.

Patton replied, “It will be up to the Department Environmental Protection to evaluate the permit and apply Clean Water Act standards.”

The network, which is based in neighboring Bristol Borough, will monitor the club’s permit and will “undertake efforts to ensure that those who recreate on the River during the club’s shooting activities are not injured by the spray of shotgun pellets,” Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said in a statement.

The club has a three-story cloth screen to keep gunshot out of the river, and posts employees in boats to retrieve dead and injured pigeons, Corr said.

Members use non-toxic shot, which is legal for hunting migratory water fowl, he said.

The club's $15,000 payment will not cover the network's legal fees, Patton said, "but it will allow us to do other environmental work."  

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