by Jack Minor –
The government has reassured recreational shooters that they will still have access to areas for target practice after concern about the new guidelines was made public.
The Bureau of Land Management has proposed new regulations that could have greatly restricted recreational shooting on some public lands. In announcing the rules, the BLM said it was concerned about the possibilities of clashes between gun owners and encroaching urban populations that use the same land for hiking and ATV’ing.
U.S. News and World Report stated that the BLM admits safety was not the main reason for the new regulations.
“It’s not so much a safety issue. It’s a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 245 million acres. He adds that urbanites “freak out” when they hear shooting on public lands.”
If approved, the policy would have the potential to reduce access to lands hunters can use for deer, elk and bear hunting.
It could also affect local residents who often go out to the Pawnee National Grasslands and engage in recreational shooting. The government closed off 280 acres in the area in 2009 following several incidents where people were nearly hit with gunfire.
Despite the closures, shooting is currently allowed on 99% of the PNG.
The key paragraph that gun rights supporters say could result in their being kicked off public lands reads as follows:
“When the authorized officer determines that a site or area on BLM-managed lands used on a regular basis for recreational shooting is creating public disturbance, or is creating risk to other persons on public lands; is contributing to the defacement, removal or destruction of natural features, native plants, cultural resources, historic structures or government and/or private property; is facilitating or creating a condition of littering, refuse accumulation and abandoned personal property is violating existing use restrictions, closure and restriction orders, or supplementary rules notices, and reasonable attempts to reduce or eliminate the violations by the BLM have been unsuccessful, the authorized officer will close the affected area to recreational shooting.”
The Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council opposed the new regulations saying it amounts to an unfair standard for gun owners over other groups.
WHHCC said the rules suggest that, “Recreational shooting is being held to a higher standard of stewardship; that the BLM is possibly more tolerant of issues when associated with other recreational activities.” It goes on to state, “The Council would like to see references in other documents that hold camping and other recreational activities responsible for illegal dumping or cause lands to be closed because they ‘facilitate and create a condition of littering’ or ‘refuse accumulation.’ The Council would also like examples of where hiking trails and other areas are closed when natural or cultural resources are damaged or destroyed.”
After news of the proposed regulations made rounds on the Internet, the BLM said they were going to make sure that shooters still had access to public lands.
In a statement, the BLM said, “We are in no way interested in banning recreational target shooting, hunting, or fishing—on the contrary, our goal is to develop guidance that will help land managers maximize and preserve opportunities for recreational shooting.”
The government went on to say that some areas that are currently too close to houses could be placed off limits.