Montana Politics

Open Thread on the Sportsmen’s Bill

Of the major bloggers on this site, I am certainly not the ‘expert’ on domestic politics or environmental policy. But as Jon Tester’s Sportsmen’s Act seems to be currently stalled, perhaps now there is time to discuss it, pros and cons.

My own opinion, for what its worth, is mostly pro. Though I’m not a hunter and not a particularly avid angler, I like the idea of increasing hunting access because I think the tradition of common land use is one of the finest traditions in this country, and because I believe that people’s enjoyment of unspoiled lands is key to inspiring them to protect them. A provision allowing the importation of legally-shot polar bears seems entirely trivial – the animals are dead, the point of keeping them in Canada escapes me. But the objection to lead ammunition and fishing tackle being exempted to the EPA is a big deal, and I think it’s positive that it’s being discussed on a legislative level. Too often this sort of thing is relegated to bureaucratic decisions within the EPA that escape notice from casual observers, radically changing environmental policies without a lot of publicity, and leaving dissatisfied members of the public not knowing who to hold responsible. The economics of toxic versus non-toxic products, and the rationale behind federal regulation versus state regulation of lead, are topics I know some of our reader know quite a bit about, and I’d be interested in hearing it.

As far as the budgetary argument, it seems rather trivial. If the rules truly are inviolable, they are badly written – prohibiting bills that pay for themselves make budgetary compromise very difficult. As to whether a Senate bill can constitutionally pay for itself, its an interesting question – but it’d be worth asking the Supreme Court if it is allowable. If it is actually ruled unconstitutional, it seems to be a barrier to creating balanced budgetary initiatives. It seems more likely that Republicans don’t want to see a Democratic Senator accomplish anything, but also don’t want to openly oppose a bill popular with their constituents – a good opinion about this from Montana is available here.

But as I said, I’m most interested in what hunters, anglers, environmental activists and other stakeholders reading the blog think!

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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    • Hello Polish Wolf: I’ve been trying to submit comments on the Sportsmen’s act here at Intelligent Discontent for two days now. I’ve written you a personal email about this, but haven’t heard back and haven’t seen any of my previously submitted comments “un-stuck.” Could you please fix this problem or advise me how to participate in this open thread on the bill? Thank you.

  • Tester’s bill deregulates — undermines and micromanages — EPA’s current authority to protect public health and our environment. EPA has become a favorite target of the NRA, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation and other neoliberal “conservation” organizations. This represents the head of the deregulatory spear against effective regulatory mechanisms, especially those applied nationally by EPA. It seems like a pretty easy political fit for an authoritarian populist like Senator Tester. He gets NRA endorsement and secures 6-digit financing for his non-stop reelection campaign.

  • The bill is good. The EPA component makes sense. It is not the job of the EPA to regulate ammunition. The EPA has said this repeatedly as has the last 2 administrations. Despite this, CBD, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and others continue to push the EPA to regulate something for which they have no statutory authority, despite claims by the litigants.

    Section 3(2)(B)(v) of the Toxic Substance Chemical Act excludes ammunition and it’s projectiles from being regulated as a “Chemical Substance” under the EPA, yet we continue to see attempts to reverse this. Opponents cite congressional intent, and the feelings of those who wish to see lead ammo banned but that does not reflect the current situation in regards to education of hunters on the effects of lead bullets (primarily in raptors). It just forces hunters to adopt a regulatory shift from an agency that they believe should not be regulating ammo. The provision included in Tester’s bill simply provides iron-clad legal clarity in the issue, in the hopes that those who continue to litigate and petition rather than work with sportsmen and sportswomen stop their heavy handed attempts to eliminate lead ammo.

    Opponents of this measure claim that it eliminates regulation of ammo by the fed. That is completely false. Regulation is simply eliminated from an improper agency with little room for legal wrangling.

    It is important to remind folks that this does not mean lead ammo goes unregulated. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the states still have the authority to institute lead ammo bans where appropriate. That system has worked well in places like California, with the Condor Recovery Area and elimination of lead bullets (from a regulatory standpoint. I don’t believe that the science is definitive that this shift has helped condors), and most successfully, when the USFWS implemented the lead ban on waterfowling in the 1980’s, under President Reagan. That ban had the widespread support of the hunting community and the firearms and ammunition industry.

    • Note: Matthew Koehler was having trouble posting on this page. I’ve posted a comment he emailed to me here.

      Ben Lamb: While I agree that Tester’s “Sportsmen’s” Act is not as bad as Bishop’s “Sportsmen’s” Act you are incorrect that Tester’s bill isn’t controversial. (For a good example, see the letter below signed by 200 environmental, conservation, wildlife and human health protection organizations).

      Sure, some aspects of Tester’s “Sportsmen” bill aren’t all that bad; however, other provisions within the bill could potentially have serious negative consequences both in the short term and the long term.

      One such example is the provision forever forbidding the EPA from ever regulating toxic lead in hunting ammo and fishing tackle. It is simply bad public policy for politicians like Tester to interfere with agencies protecting human and wildlife health. Just imagine if a few decades ago a politician would have passed a rider forbidding the EPA from regulating lead in paint. Or lead in gas. Or how about DDT?

      It should be pointed out that Environmental Chairwoman Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was successful helping to stop this bill because of her opposition to the Lead Ammo provision.

      Hopefully, now the “Sportsmen’s Act” will finally be opened up to debate. Here’s a press release from Monday, before the vote, that contains more info on the Lead-poisoning provisions in Tester’s “sportsmen’s” bill. I’d encourage people in Montana to contact Tester’s office and ask that the lead-poisoning provision be removed from the “Sportsmen’s” bill.

      P.S. Ben Lamb: I’m glad you can’t censor and remove my comments on this site, like you have repeatedly done with substantive comments I’ve attempted to post on your Montana Bully Pulpit blog.

      • Matthew, I appreciate that you are a regular hunter, unlike at least one other who comments here and boasts elsewhere about his 800 yard shooting ability with a 300 Win Mag. However, the effort to ban lead shot in hunting bullets is ridiculous on multiple levels.

      • Matthew,
        You are misrepresenting what the lead/EPA provision does. It does not forbid the Fed from regulating ammo, it simply eliminates the EPA’s ability to do so. The USFWS still has the final say on lead ammo regulation, and the states can still regulate it (and do).

        The EPA is currently prohibited from regulating firearms, shells and cartridges under TSCA. The provision in Tester’s bill makes it clear that reloading components and fishing tackle are not regulated by the EPA as well. It says nothing about eliminating federal regulations on lead shot and ammo. It only eliminates the EPA’s authority to do so, leaving it to more appropriate agencies.

        Here’s the text of your troublesome provision:

        (a) In General- Section 3(2)(B) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. 2602(2)(B)) is amended–

        (1) in clause (v), by striking ‘, and’ and inserting ‘, or any component of any such article including, without limitation, shot, bullets and other projectiles, propellants, and primers,’;

        (2) in clause (vi) by striking the period at the end and inserting ‘, and’; and

        (3) by inserting after clause (vi) the following:

        ‘(vii) any sport fishing equipment (as such term is defined in section 4162(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, without regard to paragraphs (6) through (9) thereof) the sale of which is subject to the tax imposed by section 4161(a) of such Code (determined without regard to any exemptions from such tax as provided by section 4162 or 4221 or any other provision of such Code), and sport fishing equipment components.’.

        (b) Relationship to Other Law- Nothing in this section or any amendment made by this section affects or limits the application of or obligation to comply with any other Federal, State or local law.


        The contention that the EPA is the proper authority is opinion. The USFWS has effectively regulated lead shot in waterfowl hunting. They did so with the help and support of the hunting industry and community. States like California currently regulate the use of Lead Shot, with limited results. Many, many Montanans, and Americans believe that the proper authority to regulate hunting and fishing issues belongs to the state and not the Fed. It’s part of the North American Model, which I’m sure you are familiar with.

  • Lead ammunition does not pose a risk justifying a ban. See:

    Consuming Game Taken with Traditional Ammunition

    For more than a century, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely consumed game harvested using traditional hunting ammunition. Yet, in 2008, when a dermatologist from North Dakota improperly processed selected packages of ground venison that obviously contained fragments from lead bullets, many people became concerned and some officials overreacted to the allegations made at the time that this proved that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition posed a human health risk.

    North Dakota failed to conduct its own study. Instead, they merely accepted the lead-contaminated samples hand-picked by the dermatologist and submitted those samples to a lab in Iowa for testing. Based on those test results, North Dakota health officials ordered state food pantries to destroy all donated venison and to stop accepting further donations. The Iowa lab official in charge of the testing, Rick Kelly, was highly critical of North Dakota, “I think North Dakota is drawing the wrong conclusions. We did what they asked, but they did not take an arbitrary sample.”

    To put this issue in perspective, consider this statement from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), a state agency that has tested the blood lead level of Iowa residents for over 15 years: “IDPH maintains that if lead in venison were a serious health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood lead testing since 1992 with 500,000 youth under 6 and 25,000 adults having been screened.” Iowa has never had a case of a hunter having elevated lead levels caused by consuming harvested game.

    CDC Results

    A study from 2008 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on blood lead levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk. Calls to ban or restrict the product by groups opposed to traditional ammunition, like the Peregrine Fund, and anti-hunting groups, like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), are scientifically unfounded and nothing more than a scare tactic to advance their political agenda.

    In looking more closely at the CDC study results, perhaps most telling is the fact that the average lead level of the hunters tested was lower than that of the average American. In other words, if you were to randomly pick someone on the street, chances are they would have a higher blood lead level than the hunters in this study.

    • I think the bigger question is the effect of lead pellets and sinkers in the environment, as obviously a lot of lead gets left on the land, to be consumed by animals living there.

      • PW, already lead shot regarding waterfowl is not allowed. So remove that. As to upland birds, they are very scattered and there is not the magazine unload over a limited space. One to two shots by a hunter while the flock , covey, etc. depart. There just isn’t the concentration in a limited space to make a difference. As to rifle bullets, again there just isn’t the concentration over a limited area. If a rifle bullet passe through, it buries in the ground. Nothing digs up such a spent bullet to eat it. Other hunters just don’t plug the same ground creating a concentration.

        As to sinkers, they attach to fishing line. I have some from the 60’s that I continue to use even today. Most fisherman just don’t leave them behind . If you are worried about the large multi ounce sinkers, fish and other animals just don’t eat them. The risk is de minimis.

  • Regulatory exemption for lead ammo is not the only mischief in this bill. Sec. 247, the reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, is another poison pill for those who want to keep public lands in public hands. NRA and ALEC wedge tactics may win Tester right-wing votes with this legislative approach, but I think it presumptuous to think that any of this has much to do with “sportsmen and sportswomen” in general.

    Perhaps a closer look at the science and regulatory scheme is appropriate before passing “iron-clad” barriers to meaningful citizen participation and administrative and judicial review. What’s wrong with a closer look before taking the leap?

    • Why do most public access groups support the legislation then? The groups that advocate for public access are the ones working for hard to get this bill passed.

      • The names of various groups might overlap with their stated purpose, might not. Often, as with FJRA, they are used as mere window dressing. That is not a substantive point in favor of the bill.

        • Groups that collect membership dues, on the other hand, ought to be a reasonable barometer. Why would a member pay to support an organization that endorses bills that are against their interests?

          • Membership dues don’t begin to cover budgets. They are usually merely a showcase for the public – MWA, for example, when I belonged, had perhaps 3,000 “members,” or people who sent in $35 a year. MWA then said that the typical family has four members, and that they therefor represented 12,000 people. (Don’t quote me on numbers – I am foggy at best and dues have surely gone up.) The 3,000 members represent $140,000 out of a $1-2 million plus budget, and so the professional staff looks to Pew to keep them in business, and is subsumed into the Pew culture and adopts Pew’s objectives. The net effect is that MWA’s 3,000 members unknowingly front for Pew, which the foundation legacy of Sunoco. So those 3000 members are unknowingly fronting for oil and gas money.

            That’s why you must be careful in looking at groups in public policy debates, and why Tester chose the groups he did. Follow the money.

            • Mark –

              The point was not the funding of groups, but the spending behavior of the thousands of people who are members of those groups. What you’re arguing is that huge groups of people are giving money to organizations, following the voting advice of organizations, and volunteering for organizations, but somehow deep down inside, they oppose the very actions they are voting for and funding?

              There’s a much simpler explanation – there are a lot more people in Montana who want to go hunting with lead ammunition on an increased amount of land than there are people in Montana who care deeply about protecting wilderness areas they’ve never seen. Unless an awful lot of Cox supporters are big fans of increased government regulation on hunting, fishing, and wilderness recreation, it would seem like Tester is representing the majority of Montanans a lot more closely than you, Kelly and Koehler.

            • When FJRA was sprung on us, we tried to explain to you who these groups are and how they function where they get their money, etc. You pointedly ignore that information, insisting in a doe-eyed manner that WYSIWYG, and also as much about Tester. It’s as if you believe that money has no influence. I cannot argue that point, as you are being obtuse. Public opinion is interesting and all of that, but does not drive the Tester agenda. Follow the money.

              I made a trip to Great Falls once with another person for MWA to solicit Pew funding. They wanted to know our policy objectives in detail and wanted us to formulate an agenda on their guidelines. If we did not conform (we did not) there was no money to be had. (MWA later sold out, big time.)

              AWR and WWI are yet to sell out, live the life and hire expensive staff and all that goes with the PEW money, but I assure you when they do, Jon will stop calling them names and invite them to his secret meetings to formulate legislation.

              If you don’t follow the money, you do not understand politics.

    • The problem is that taking a closer judicial and administrative look essentially removes elected officials from the process and replaces them with unelected bureaucrats and judges. now, these bureaucrats and judges may be experts, and they certainly are better informed than most, but the feeling of frustration the people feel when decisions about their lifestyles are made by unelected officials is a powerful force, and its the reason legislators like Jon Tester get so much support from their constituents for actions like this – people are frustrated with the court system and the way it enforces the laws, and so they want their legislators to implement changes in the laws themselves.

      • Inclusion of the word “judges” along with “bureacrats” certainly caught my eye. Indeed, if the “bureaucrats” are not obeying the law, then judges have a role to fill. Relegating them to the sidelines is an odd attitude. Where did you pick that up?

        “Bureaucrat” is an essentially meaningless political word, a PR dagger. During his term of office Burns spend a lot of time haranguing on them. These are our staff, performing boring duty, often put under duress by the elected officials who you say answer to the public.

        I would turn your world upside down. The public does not know why it votes as it does. Elections are devoid of substance. Contributors want ROI from candidiates. Judges and bureaucrats protects us to some o from politicnas, who act on behalf of contributors, and not the public.

        • ““Bureaucrat” is an essentially meaningless political word, a PR dagger.”

          I’ll admit I tried hard to find another word besides bureaucrats because it does have so much baggage. I failed to find one – understand bureaucrats in the way you described, or the way Weber described.

          ” Judges and bureaucrats protects us to some o from politicnas”

          So are judges our protectors, or our autocratic Mullahs? We’ve apparently got it both ways, eh?

          ” The public does not know why it votes as it does.”

          So it’s up to the ‘better sort’ to make those decisions on behalf of the the public who don’t know what they are doing. You know, do what’s best for them. Consent without consent. Familiar with the phrase?

          • Now who is inserting baggage? The judicial branch serves an essential purpose, and you seem to want to geld them. I hold that out to be odd. A politician who owes his seat to rich donors is far more dangerous than bureaucrats and judges.

            In a separate debate, I hold our highest court to be in essence, Mullahs. Those nine have far too much power,and of course, predictably, have abused it.

            • As much as you’d like to separate these debates, they are closely connected. The District Court could have just as easily made the Citizen’s United decision. So, either you agree with the ability of the Court to overrule the decisions of elected officials, or you don’t. You believe Marbury was a mistake, or you don’t. If Marbury was a mistake, you have to accept that you lose Brown v Board, Roe v Wade, and Miranda v Arizona.

              Same goes for your 11th amendment argument against CU, speaking of.

              • Marburg was a mistake. Nothing you say follows necessarily follows. Dictatorship is always tempting but it would have played out elsewhere. Our mullahs are hardly democrats bathe are autocrats.

                • Without Marbury, or a similar ruling giving the court authority over constitutional review, it does indeed follow that none of those cases would have been possible (perhaps minus Miranda), because the court wouldn’t have had the authority to rule any of the laws in question unconstitutional. It’s not hard to understand.

                • It’s merely a collaborative rather than dictatorial process.

                  I’m seeing typos everywhere. I’ve had two celebration ales, enough to render me an ongoing typo.

          • No matter what I might think or want, elections are devoid of substance. That is objective reality, and has nothing to do with ego. I wish for no power to impose anything on the citizenry. I do agree with one wise person who said that even though there is no wisdom to be mined in the public mind, forcing a change of government now and then Is good for that reason alone – change.

            • “forcing a change of government now and then Is good for that reason alone – change.”

              I think history tells a different story. I was a revolutionary before I really understood history. Reading I realized, as Carl Dreyer said,

              “I don’t believe in revolutions. They have, as a rule, the tedious quality of pulling development back. I believe more in evolution, in the small advances.”

              Revolution is accompanied almost universally by excess, destruction, and violence. They are also almost invariably accompanied either by hijacking movements or counterrevolutions, in either case generally reversing any real gains made in freedom or material well-being. Those exceptions that exist are few and far between, and exist only under fairly rare circumstances.

              • Revolutions do engender attacks from other countries. USSR and Cuba as example, terrorist attack from Britain, France, Germany and Japan on USSR forced post Bolshies repressive regimes to face unrelenting attacks. Same with Cuba. What was Mongoose but terrorism on a large scale, eventually turned on JFK.
                BUt you misunderstand. I was referring to elections by the unwashed as having a good effect no matter: new blood.

  • FLTFA has been used to open up large tracts of public land by selling off isolated parcels. It’s also helped facilitate campaigns as the Chain of Lakes acquisition and the Red Rocks Lake acquisition which has increased the amount of land under public ownership and the amount of land available to hunters and anglers. Out of the 20 or so packages included, which in particular (other than FLTFA) are you concerned over?

  • I view this battle as a part of a much larger authoritarian trend in opposition to meaningful citizen participation in government decision-making, chipping away at our rights to judicial review, and an assault on our federal court system in general. Since its inception in 1970, right-wingers have opposed the EPA and everything it stands for. Pres. Nixon, a Republican, is also credited with enacting NEPA, among other important laws that protect us from polluters and pollution.

    Hopefully this brief history of environmental law and regulation helps put this bill in its proper context. There is nothing progressive about this bill. Sen. Tester has clearly taken sides with the NRA, ALEC, Chamber of Commerce, and the like in opposition to effective environmental enforcement by anybody, including, but not limited to, federal agencies, federal courts, citizen activists, journalists, etc.

    I fail to see any connection between this bill and “Progressive politics from the Big Sky.” Sen. Tester is trending to the right utilizing ever greater authoritarian means. You can no longer see Nixon from where he is planted.

  • I guess I don’t see it as that. I see the lead/EPA provision as clean up language to fullfill congressional intent, which was that ammunition was not to be regulated by the EPA.

    How else do you feel the bill would eliminate public participation, and specifically, how would the EPA provision limit your ability to petition the USFWS to enact a lead ban on big game ammunition?

  • Ben,
    So sorry about that seeing problem. This is just another example of how well our separation of powers system functions. The more cash you bring, the better it works. Again, and generally, polluters go to Congress for relief from regulation, paying taxes, and to steal from our commonwealth. This bill does all that and more, however incrementally. Have a great weekend.

    • Steve – from where I’ standing, your argument sounds awfully similar to some I’ve heard from the NRA – the if this bill can be construed as a trend whose endpoint is unacceptable, then the bill itself, however trivial its changes, is also unacceptable. I also disagree with the characterization of the act as authoritarian – quite the contrary, working through elected officials is certainly not more authoritarian than working through unelected agencies or judges

  • Steve,

    I don’t disagree with the overall premise, but in this instance, I think the facts don’t comport with that view. The bill doesn’t give polluters any new ability to trash our public lands or hunting grounds, it simply cleans up the regulatory authority and provides clear direction to the EPA. Public participation remains intact for FLTF (which has to still go through public comment) and there are still mechanisms to petition the Fed to look at lead in ammo.

    Thanks for the reasonable response, have a great weekend too.

    • You actually thought that response was reasonable? You need to check on your sarcasm meter (or maybe I should check mine…)


  • Last week, Mr. Lamb and his Montana Wildlife Federation “Sportsmen for Montana” social media site censored and removed all of my previous substantive comments there RE: The Sportsmen’s Bill and lead ammo, and they have blocked me from ever posting on their site again. This type of censorship and removal of substantive comments also occurred at Mr. Lamb’s Bully Pulpit blog when I attempted to make informed, specific comments about Sen Tester’s mandated logging bill.

    A few weeks ago, more than 200 citizen groups rose up to object to a provision in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 3525) that would create an exemption under federal toxics law to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from evaluating or regulating lead poisoning of wildlife and humans from hunting or fishing activities. You can learn more about this issue, and see which groups are a part of this effort here….Thanks.

  • For Immediate Release: December 17, 2012

    Newtown Gun Group Opposed Even Mildest Gun Restrictions and Environmental Health Protections

    National Shooting Sports Foundation Opposed Bill to Disarm the Mentally Ill, Effort to Eliminate Lead Poisoning

    TUCSON—The National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut just three miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School has a long history of extremist positions on guns. It has opposed even the mildest policies designed to protect people from lead poisoning and to fund the confiscation of guns from criminals and the mentally ill.

    In 2011, the Foundation unsuccessfully opposed a California bill to fund the confiscation of guns from criminals and the mentally ill. In a story describing the need for funding of such programs (“States Struggle to Disarm People Who’ve Lost Right to Own Guns”), the New York Times wrote:

    “By law, Roy Perez should not have had a gun three years ago when he shot his mother 16 times in their home in Baldwin Park, Calif., killing her, and then went next door and killed a woman and her 4-year-old daughter.

    Mr. Perez, who pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and was sentenced last year to life in prison, had a history of mental health issues. As a result, even though in 2004 he legally bought the 9-millimeter Glock 26 handgun he used, at the time of the shootings his name was in a statewide law enforcement database as someone whose gun should be taken away, according to the authorities.”

    Currently, the Foundation is pushing legislation to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from eliminating highly toxic lead in bullets, even though non-lead bullets are readily available. Though state and federal agencies have warned hunters of the potential danger—especially to pregnant women and children— of ingesting the tiny fragments of lead from bullets which are common in the meat of hunted animals, the Foundation is aggressively seeking to amend the federal Toxic Substances Control Act to prevent the EPA banning lead in bullets as it has banned it in paint, gasoline and children’s toys. Elimination of lead from bullets would prevent up to 14,000 tons of this toxic heavy metal from being shot into America’s forests and fields every year, where it poisons millions of birds and mammals to death.

    “Extremist groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation have blocked even the most modest, reasonable gun control and environmental health reforms,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, “This insanity has to stop. A gun lobby that supports lead poisoning and opposes funding to confiscate guns from the mentally ill is not just irrational, it’s dangerous. We got lead out of paint, gasoline and children’s toys, now we need to get it out of bullets and get deadly guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”

    The Center for Biological Diversity is leading a national effort to eliminate lead from bullets and other sources which threaten human and environmental health. More information on its programs is available

  • From the same investigative reporters who gave us the national PBS documentary “Big Sky Big Money,” which rightfully exposed American Tradition Partnership, comes this new investigative piece on the dark money “Sportsmen’s” group Montana Hunters and Anglers….

    In Montana, Dark Money Helped Democrats Hold a Key Senate Seat
    By Kim Barker, ProPublicia

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