On May 27, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with several members of the Federal Lands Hunting, Fishing and Shooting Sports Roundtable, submitted formal comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding a proposed recreational shooting closure on federal public land in Utah. Through its efforts to address issues associated with target shooting, the BLM’s Salt Lake City Field Office has proposed an amendment to the Pony Express Resource Management Plan (RMP) that could result in the closure of nearly 3,500 acres in an area that has become a popular destination for recreational shooters in recent years.
As part of its planning effort, the BLM has proposed three alternatives. Alternative A would allow for the expiration of an existing temporary closure of 893 acres that was instituted to provide safety for adjacent landowners and provide protection for archaeological artifacts, including petroglyphs that have been damaged due in part to irresponsible shooter behavior. Alternative B would codify the temporary closure in the RMP, while Alternative C would expand the existing temporary closure to 3,450 acres. The BLM has identified the expanded closure outlined in Alternative C as the agency’s preferred alternative.
In their comments to the BLM, Roundtable partners, including CSF, expressed their support for codifying the existing temporary closure (Alternative B), noting that the agency has provided the appropriate justification needed to make it permanent. However, Roundtable members expressed concerns with increasing the acreage closed to recreational shooting, noting that closing additional lands to shooting in the area will only compound the problem by unintentionally directing displaced shooters to other areas. The Roundtable also encouraged the BLM to evaluate the impacts associated with the opening of Utah County’s nearby Soldier Pass Shooting Range prior to expanding the existing temporary closure and suggested that the agency develop a Recreation Area Management Plan that would allow for a thorough analysis of the location’s carrying capacity for recreational activities, including target shooting.
The purpose of the Federal Lands Hunting, Fishing and Shooting Sports Roundtable is to build a partnership for planning and implementing mutually beneficial projects and activities related to hunting, fishing and shooting sports conducted on federal lands, a mission codified in a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the BLM. The MOU was renewed in 2014 and now includes four federal agencies and 43 hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, and shooting sports organizations.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?