Public Lands Remain Open to Shooters—For Now

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posted on December 21, 2011
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A memo issued in recent weeks by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated there will be no new recreational shooting restrictions on Bureau of Land Management lands, reversing a policy proposed earlier this year aimed at the prohitition of "unregulated target shooting" affecting thousands of acres in Arizona and Colorado.

Salazar's memo directed BLM Director Bob Abbey to "take no further action to develop or implement" the draft policy on recreational shooting.

The policy, proposed this summer, could have potentially blocked millions of acres of federal land to gun use, a prospect that alarmed many gun owners, particularly in the West, where target shooting and firearm practice on public land is a longtime tradition. According to the draft policy, an authorized officer could close shooting access on public lands for a wide variety of reasons including concerns about creating a public disturbance, or risk to other persons on public lands.

"As the West has become more populated, recreational shooters now often find themselves in conflict with other public lands users, and the BLM is frequently called on to mediate these conflicts," the draft stated.

BLM officials said their intent was to ensure public safety in rapidly growing areas of the urban West, where they said some residents claim there are a growing number of conflicts with those using public lands for recreational shooting purposes.

In his late November directive, Secretary Salazar affirmed his department's support for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal land.

"By facilitating access, multiple use and safe activities on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management helps ensure that the vast majority of the 245 million acres it oversees are open and remain open to recreational shooting," he wrote.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, (R-MT), an outspoken critic of the original proposal, expressed relief at the administration's apparent reversal.

"But it would be a lot better for everyone if they stopped doing things to restrict gun rights that require them to back off in the first place," said Rehberg.

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