The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has reversed course and decided not to ban recreational shooting in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert National Monument after all.
After indicating last August that it intended to close the 486,400-acre monument to target shooting, Robert Towne, acting director of BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, announced that his agency was backing off that plan during a May 11 conference call of the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council.
The proposed shooting closure was the preferred alternative in BLM’s Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which is located about 50 miles southwest of Phoenix. Towne indicated BLM would release a new plan alternative that would keep the monument open to recreational shooting—with the caveat that management and administrative actions would be taken and best management practices developed to protect “monument values and objects.”
“We plan to identify this option as the preferred management decision in the final environmental impact statement, with accompanying management and administrative actions to minimize the impacts of shooting to the monument values and objects,” said Towne during the conference call.
No details were provided as to what these actions and best management practices would entail. When the agency announced its plan to outright ban all shooting in the monument last August, it cited concerns over noise, public safety and resource damage as reasons for the proposed closure.
Presently, some 63 sites in the national monument are used by shooters.
The Sonoran Desert National Monument Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released for public review in late June 2012.
In addition, BLM released a plan closing 129,000 acres to recreational shooting in Ironwood Forest National Monument near Tucson, Ariz., last year. According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star, BLM officials were noncommittal when asked if Ironwood’s shooting ban would also be reversed.
NRA has actively opposed all BLM efforts to ban recreational shooting in Arizona, including filing a protest letter against the decision to ban shooting in Ironwood Forest National Monument.
BLM’s announcement that it will not ban shooting in the Sonoran Desert National Monument comes on the heels of the U.S. House’s passage of H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, a package of bills that includes the Recreational Shooting Protection Act.
This act, which is endorsed by the NRA, would require congressional approval for any recreational shooting restrictions on BLM-managed national monument lands and would apply retroactively to all prior BLM shooting closures. This act also directs BLM to manage national monument lands in a manner that supports, promotes and enhances recreational shooting opportunities.
The impetus for the Recreational Shooting Protection Act was BLM’s closure of Ironwood Forest National Monument and proposed closure of Sonoran Desert National Monument to recreational shooting.
“I’m pleased that the BLM will allow recreational shooters to continue to engage in their sport on these public lands,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R- Ariz.), chief sponsor of the Recreational Shooting Protection Act. “This is the right thing to do and the administration should do the same in the Ironwood Forest National Monument.”
For more information on this important pro-gun victory, please read the following legislative alert from NRA-ILA: After Passage of “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act,” BLM Backs Down on Shooting Ban.
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