Shortage of shooting ranges
The Rocky Mtn News has a story on how Colorado is trying to cope.
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What's to be done when your marksmanship needs tweaking or Old Bess wants sighting in? Tough luck.
Never have the shooter's options been so slim. Although firearms owners have multiplied, community shooting ranges that once dotted the Front Range have been chased off by urban development and overpopulation.
Frustrated shooters drive to public lands hours from home. There, they plink at often trashed informal sites - at odds with hikers, residents and, sometimes, the USDA Forest Service.
The scarcity of clean, safe shooting facilities is dire from Fort Collins to Pueblo. But state and federal agencies and conservation groups whose representatives met Tuesday promised to cooperate in a cure.
"We simply need better options than stopping along the road on federal land," said Kent Ingram, the Colorado Wildlife Federation's board president.
Ingram was the first to sign a memorandum of understanding that calls for the agencies and groups to work together to provide those better options.
They promised more good shooting ranges.
Agencies key to the agreement include the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado State Parks and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Conservation and shooting groups signing on included Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, Colorado Bowhunters Association and Colorado State 4H Shooting Sports Program.
Conspicuously absent were representatives from the National Rifle Association and Colorado Shooting Sports Association, which have been at odds with federal and state agencies over proposed motorized trail travel restrictions and sporting license fee increases.
The signing ceremony, held at the wildlife division's Hunter Education Building, was replete with back-patting, handshakes and mercifully brief speeches.
But the question most participants wanted answered was: "When does something get done?"
There already has been progress. The first new range is planned for Colorado Springs, beginning in September. A range at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is another possibility.
Special projects manager Jim Goodyear said the division has retained nationally renowned shooting range designer Clark Vargas, of Jacksonville, Fla., to find sites and determine the needs of various ranges. Vargas, an expert in designing ranges with low noise impact, will meet with the division Friday to recommend some acreage.
Most of the new shooting ranges would be located along the populous Front Range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
Goodyear said some might be on state or federal land, or on private land purchased for the purpose. "Of course, the Forest Service is the key player," he said.
Bob Leaverton, supervisor of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National grasslands, agreed: "Certainly we don't have development money, but what we do have is land. We need to be at the table for two reasons. Right now we're accommodating probably 80 percent of (shooting opportunity) along the Front Range. Secondly, recreational shooting is an appropriate activity in the national forest."
Steve Schreiner, president of the Firearms Coalition of Colorado, said it is time for more shooting ranges on the Front Range. He said he hopes Tuesday's meeting results in three types of ranges.
"I want to see informal, unsupervised ranges where people pick up after themselves.
"Then you should have some intermediate ranges with county services, like trash pickup. Then some mega-ranges in the bigger population areas."