Under pressure from gun owners and shooting sports advocates, the Interior Department announced today it would make sure shooters still have access to public lands long made available for firearms recreation, according to U.S. News and World Report. The Department's Bureau of Land Management is currently drafting new rules aimed at allaying concerns of the growing urban population who like using that same land for hiking and dog walking.
The Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, which advises the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, objected to the drafted rules. The draft raised concerns about how shooting can cause a "public disturbance." They also raised worries about how shooting and shooters can hurt plants and litter public lands.
The BLM issued the following statement to the magazine:
"The Department of the Interior fully supports and encourages hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on America's public lands. Nearly 400,000 hunters visit Bureau of Land Management lands every year, generating an estimated $785 million in economic output. The vast majority of BLM's 245 million acres is open to recreational shooting, and we want to keep it that way.
"The BLM wants to protect opportunities for recreational shooting on public lands and reduce the possibility for conflicts that in the past have resulted in some recreational shooting closures. That is why we are currently working with the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC)—which includes representatives from sportsmen's organizations, the outdoor recreation industry, state resource agencies and others—to develop guidance to protect long-term access to recreational target shooting.
"We are at the early stages of our work with the WHHCC and will be guided by their input and recommendations. We are in no way interested in banning recreational target shooting, hunting, or fishing—on the contrary, our goal is to develop guidance that will help land managers maximize and preserve opportunities for recreational shooting. It is important to note that hunting and fishing on public lands is managed by state fish and game agencies—and is not the subject of these discussions."