According to a Nov. 16 column in U.S. News and World Report, gun owners who have been able to use public lands for target practice would be barred from potentially millions of acres under new rules drafted by the Interior Department, a move by the Obama administration to impose limits on firearms. Officials say the administration is concerned about the potential clash between gun owners and encroaching urban populations who like to use same land for hiking and dog walking.
If the draft policy is approved, some public access to the Department's Bureau of Land Management lands would also be limited for hunters, potentially reducing areas that deer, elk, and bear hunters can use in the West.
One elite advisory group of conservationists is telling BLM to junk the regulations, claiming that shooters are being held to a much higher safety standard than other users of public lands, such as ATV riders, according to the column.
"They are just trying to make it so difficult for recreational shooters," said Gary Kania, vice president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. His group, along with the National Wildlife Foundation, Cabela's, and Ducks Unlimited, serves on the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, which advises the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture. They object to the new rules.
The draft BLM regulations (over five pages long) raise concerns about how shooting can cause a "public disturbance." They also raise worries about how shooting and shooters can hurt plants and litter public lands. According to the column, this key paragraph is what could lead to shooters being kicked off public lands:
"When the authorized officer determines that a site or area on BLM-managed lands used on a regular basis for recreational shooting is creating public disturbance, or is creating risk to other persons on public lands; is contributing to the defacement, removal or destruction of natural features, native plants, cultural resources, historic structures or government and/or private property; is facilitating or creating a condition of littering, refuse accumulation and abandoned personal property is violating existing use restrictions, closure and restriction orders, or supplementary rules notices, and reasonable attempts to reduce or eliminate the violations by the BLM have been unsuccessful, the authorized officer will close the affected area to recreational shooting."
The National Rifle Association stated it has been advocating change in BLM policy toward recreational shooting for years and has encouraged the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council to take action on BLM’s draft Recreational Shooting Policy. Documents related to this issue can be read on the Council’s website at www.fws.gov/whhcc
. Click on “meetings.” The BLM policy documents are under the November 15 and 16 meeting.
The NRA helped draft HR 2834, introduced by Michigan Congressman Dan Benishek, that is designed to promote access and secure the future for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal lands. That bill requires the BLM and the Forest Service to proactively manage for these activities.
For more on HR 2834, go to http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=275&issue=021