Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Amid protests from gun advocates, BLM reverses ban on recreational shooting in national monument

In another example of the power gun advocates have over government officials, Emily Guerin reports for High Country News about the failed attempt by managers of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to ban recreational shooting on its 487,000 acres. The Bureau of Land Management reversed the decision after receiving complaints from Washington, D.C.-based hunting and shooting advocates who toured the monument. (Photo: A bullet-ridden sign at the monument)

Former monument manager Rich Hanson banned shooting because of the damage caused by shooters, Guerin writes. "In just one cleanup, he and his staff gathered 12,000 pounds of bullet-riddled oil drums, fast-food garbage and computer monitors. 'Slob shooters,' as Hanson, who retired last spring, calls them, have also harmed the very resources he was sworn to protect – amputating saguaro [cactus] limbs, shattering rock faces and splintering the trunks of palo verde, mesquite and other desert trees. Visitors to monument wilderness areas or the popular Anza National Historic Trail often pass unsightly roadside dumps."  

Wilderness Society attorney Phil Hanceford, who sued the BLM over its reversal in September, told Guerin, "This is not just turning a blind eye to someone else's science. It's looking straight at their own science and completely disregarding their own recommendation." High Country News is subscription only, but can be accessed by clicking here.

After the tour, John Tomke, chair of the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Council, wrote a letter to BLM Director Robert Abbey, saying: "When then-[Interior] Secretary Bruce Babbitt recommended BLM keep management of the SDNM, it was understood that these special landscapes would remain open to the traditional recreational activities that had taken place for decades. Recreational shooting is one of those traditional activities. Dispersed recreational shooting is a valued recreational activity unto itself and is also a gateway into more formal shooting sports and hunting. Recreational shooting is a critical element in the process of becoming a hunter and shooting sports enthusiast, and given the importance of hunting and recreational shooting in the funding of wildlife conservation in America it is imperative that we do all we can to further recruitment and retention of hunters and recreational shooters." Tomke argued that there aren't enough public shooting areas in the Phoenix area for the number of recreational shooters who live there, better clean-up plans could be instituted, and the monument has enough room for specific shooting-only areas, or re-routing hiking trails to accommodate shooters. (Read more)

No comments: