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A proposed change to target shooting in National Forest is creating conflict in Teller County

Shooting Plan
Posted at 10:31 PM, Nov 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-16 10:32:18-05

TELLER COUNTY — Protecting hikers from stray bullets and other safety concerns is pushing The U.S. Forest Service to change the policies surrounding target shooting areas in Colorado.

The U.S. Forest Service held a meeting on Wednesday night, in Teller County, to share their proposal as well as a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

The draft proposal for the Integrated Management of Target Shooting Project would limit the areas of dispersed shooting on forest service property. The U.S. Forest Service said the plan and topic does not have to do with hunting. They also want to build additional shooting ranges.

Brian Banks is the District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service South Platte Ranger District. Banks said more people are participating in recreational shooting. Because of the increase, Banks said, they have seen more injuries.

“It's gotten to a point where we can no longer ignore it, we have to manage it,” Banks said.

They have also received numerous complaints of shooting near private property. One Teller County resident, who attended the meeting, Cathy Scott said people are shooting close to her house.

“Our house borders the national forest and we have had all kinds of encounters from shooters,” Scott said.

Cathy Scott lives 80 yards away from the national forest in Teller County.

“Shooters are coming right up to the property and shooting, we can actually hear their conversations when there is more than one,” Scott said.

The US Forest Service said under current regulation disperse shooting must be 150 yards away from trails and residential areas. But Scott said, in her experience, people are not following this rule.

“It has gotten so bad we started wearing hunters gear when we are outside on our own property,” Scott said. “Especially on weekends, when the weather is nice, we will stay indoors because we are fearful of stray bullets,” Scott said.

Banks said there have been reports of unsafe shootings.

“Because of the nature of shooting and the fact that the bullet can travel for miles there is a lot of potential for that to impact someone or something and that has happened. So we want to increase the safety while also increasing the user experience for the shooters,” Banks said.

Banks said their goal with these proposed changes is to make recreational shooting safer.

“The intent is to build ranges that are safe and that can accommodate that activity, and limit the area in which it is not safe,” Bank said.

In Wednesday night's meeting, they showed images of target shooting damaging and trashing the forest.

“There is a ton of lead out there from these bullets that are accumulating across the forest,” Banks said.

In the presentation, they also included an idea to build up to seven new shooting ranges across The Pikes Peak, South Park, And South Platte Ranger Districts. They would like to have one in each of the three ranger districts.

“Some of these ranges that we are talking about developing have a lot of amenities you would not find just out in the forest by yourself,” Banks said. “We are looking for that sweet spot where it is a benefit to the users, the shooters themselves, as well as the non-shooters,” Banks said.

He said there are multiple benefits to shooting ranges.

“The benefit of having developed ranges, first of all, you are providing a safe area that is engineered that someone can go and shoot. The second benefit is those rounds that they are shooting are going to be collected and concentrated into one spot,” Banks said.

He said one issue is resource damage. Banks said a developed range has a system that will collect the lead and mitigate those effects.

Folks in attendance were able to look at the proposed maps that would limit dispersed shooting and add more ranges.

In addition to personal safety, Banks said wildfires are also something that is affected by recreational shooting.

“We have had several wildfires over the history of managing national forests that are a result of recreational shooting,” Banks said.

He said the impact of the wildfires is significant and fires can be started a couple of different ways from bullets.

“If someone is shooting tracer rounds, which are illegal on national forest, that is an easy way to start a fire. Another way to start a fire is they can ricochet, if you are not shooting lead bullets they can ricochet off of rocks, create a spark and ignite a fire that way," Banks said. "Another common way that wildfires are started is by shooting a product called tannerite, which is an explosive. It is legal to purchase but illegal to use in national forests. So through any one of these combinations, it is pretty easy to start a fire,” Banks said.

Scott expressed that she has no issues with guns, shooting, or hunting, but she is concerned about people not following shooting safety rules. She does not want people to be able to shoot so close to her home.

“We really want the designated shooting areas, so that we don't have to worry about shooting when we are on our own property,” Scott said.

Other people who attended the meeting expressed their opinions about the plan and its process.

“That's insane, that's wrong, you're starting off with a premise that here are our maps and we are going to take away all of your rights,” said one gentleman at the meeting.

He expresses his frustration with why and how the Forest Service was making this plan.

“I think establishing all this whole propaganda that you did is leading to one guy's decision is important to establish,” said one gentleman at the meeting.

The forest reiterated this is just a drafted plan and they will take all public feedback into consideration.

Starting on November 28th people can comment on their US Forest Service website.

They said all opinions expressed will be noted as they create the final plan. According to the presentation, the Integrated Management Of Target Shooting Project, won’t be finalized until late next year.

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