Under fire from gun owners concerned about draft guidelines that could limit areas for target practice on western public lands, the Interior Department today said it would make sure shooters still have access to lands long available for firearms recreation.
"Our goal is to leave lands open to shooting," said an Interior official for the Bureau of Land Management, which is drafting guidelines to deal with the growing clash between skittish urbanites moving to western wilderness areas and America's tradition of letting gun owners shoot targets on public lands. [Read: Obama Pushing Shooters Off Public Lands.]
"We don't want to have to close any areas," said an official as BLM provided Washington Whispers with a statement clarifying the developing guidelines.
"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," said the BLM statement.[Read about the subpoena issued as a result of Operation Fast and Furious.]
However, the official said it is possible that areas previously used for target practice that are too close to houses or areas of urban growth could be put off limits. The new plan would be to provide shooters with a map or guide on where they can go for target practice nearby, said the official.
"It's the difference of driving two minutes [to shoot] or 15 minutes," said the official.
Whispers reported on the controversy yesterday. A committee of conservationists and outdoors groups advising BLM has expressed outrage over the developing guidelines, charging that BLM is making it hard for shooters to practice on public lands, which has a long tradition in the West. The Interior official said that the committee's concerns will be addressed in a "redraft" of the guidelines.
The story, promoted on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, had gun owners up in arms.
Below is the full BLM statement to Whispers:
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.