Recreational shooting will be completely banned in Arizona’s Ironwood Forest National Monument under a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (PRMP/FEIS).
Ironwood is a 129,000-acre tract of desert northwest of Tucson commonly used by hunters and recreational shooters. While there is no measure to ban hunting, hunters would be denied a place to sight-in prior to the season, practice marksmanship, test equipment, and teach safe, responsible gun handling to youngsters.
Closure of the monument to recreational shooting was protested at public meetings and in written comments, but the BLM ignored the wishes of those who enjoy the historic and important recreational uses of these public lands.
“The BLM has demonstrated from the beginning of the planning process that its intent was to ban recreational shooting in the Ironwood Forest National Monument,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “No amount of public engagement in support of recreational shooting altered the direction that BLM had decided in advance that it would go. The BLM is charting the same course in its draft plan for the Sonoran Desert National Monument. Rest assured that the NRA will protect the interests of shooters and hunters by pursuing whatever legislative or legal means are available.”
NRA has been fighting to keep recreational shooting open in the monument since the draft plan was released for public comment in 2007 and has now filed a formal protest of the PRMP/FEIS, asserting, among other points:
• Because of a bias toward recreational shooting, BLM intended to institute the ban regardless of public comment.
• Shooting was arbitrarily singled out for a ban when resource-damaging activities such as grazing and camping were allowed.
• BLM made claims of environmental damage caused by recreational shooters but failed to provide documentation of the type and extent of the alleged damage. BLM also failed to discuss any options to minimize such impacts, such as more arrests of offenders and better enforcement of existing laws.
• By law, federal land-use plans must “use and observe the principles of multiple use and sustained yield,” essentially requiring a balance so that public lands “are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.” The PRMP/FEIS makes no attempt to balance any alleged negative impacts of recreational shooting with the huge economic value of recreation to the area or the recreational benefits to American gun owners who use the area.
• BLM’s factual basis for the ban was not part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and therefore the public had no opportunity comment.
NRA’s comments on the draft plan gave it standing to file a formal protest to BLM’s announced decision.
Commenting on the proposed ban, Susan Recce, NRA’s Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources, said, “BLM points to a few irresponsible individuals as a reason to close the monument to all recreational shooters. But the real reason for the closure is that BLM is unwilling or incapable of providing the necessary management or oversight so that shooting can take place in a safe and responsible manner. From the beginning of the planning process, NRA offered to assist BLM in identifying safe shooting sites and ways to foster safe and responsible shooting. The offers fell on deaf ears.
“At this point,” Recce continued, “I doubt that anything short of a legislative remedy will reverse the direction in which the BLM is headed. NRA will pursue all possible options to restore shooting opportunities in the monument for the safe, responsible citizens who use it.”
Editor’s Note: BLM is also proposing to close a half million acres of public land to target shooting southwest of Phoenix, much of it in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The public comment period for this plan is open until November 25 and gun owners are urged to take part in the process. See the NRA-ILA alert from Sept. 23 for more information.