Since I’ve been exploring the topic of personal-use recreational access to National Forests, I’ve thought about how different the discussion is compared to the others multiple uses. There are environmental issues, public safety issues and what we might call “annoying to neighbors” issues. These issues, for the most part, don’t seem to attract the attention of the major environmental groups and tend to be ultimately local in solution. Thanks to all the public servants out there who deal with these issues day in and day out! If you live near a National Forest, you probably see these kinds of issues in your local paper.
Some issues are a function of the Forests getting more heavily used, crowded and with more neighbors living cheek by jowl with the Forest. We might call it the “urbanizing forest transition”, or I’m open to other expressions. But they are also related to people not following the rules that exist to protect the environment and public safety.
Recreational shooting has been an issue on the Front Range of Colorado for some time.. I remember being in meetings dealing with it when I was still working. Here’s a recent article in the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Bullet holes in the trees dotting the top of the ridge reveal shooters haven’t been following another rule requiring an earthen backstop. With Colorado 67 circling beyond the trees and houses nearby, the potential for loss of life is of paramount concern, he said.
“You have no idea where that bullet is going to land,” Martinez said.
This summer added yet another threat: fires.
In a three-month span, shooting ignited eight fires in the area, leading to renewed calls to close Turkey Track to recreational shooting.
Trash is another mounting concern. Shooters aren’t picking up their used shell casings or targets.
The Forest Service said rangers routinely pick up trash on patrols, but organized efforts twice a year have amassed two to three large dumpsters worth of garbage from each shooting location across the district.
“There’s no reason it has to look that way,” Martinez said.
While not expressly advocating to close the area, Martinez said conversations are needed about how to keep the area safe for the people who use it and the residents nearby.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Martinez said. “What it (recreational use) will end up looking like, I don’t know, but we’re going to need to have some solutions to all of this.”
For recreational shooting to continue, the Forest Service encourages people to follow its golden rule: “Keep it safe. Keep it clean. Keep it legal.”
Is this an issue on the Forests near you?