PHOENIX — Public comments are now being accepted by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management on a proposed shooting sports pilot project on public lands within the Arizona State Office’s Phoenix District.
According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), officials have identified four recreational shooting “microsites” located on BLM-managed public lands in Maricopa and Pinal Counties near Phoenix. The proposed pilot microsites would offer shooting sports enthusiasts enhanced access and safety through varying levels of potential site development, such as firing lines, backstops, side berms, concrete pads and/or restrooms.
The sites were selected because they are located in easily accessible areas and have minimal conflicts with other recreation activities (such as hiking, mountain biking, off-highway vehicle use and camping) or with natural or cultural resources, housing developments, commercial permits, or energy and telecommunications lines, according to BLM.
The pilot will evaluate a variety of active management options to enhance access and safety.
“Recreational shooting and the Second Amendment are of critical importance to the people of Arizona. These new opportunities will increase access and provide safe opportunities for sportsmen and local communities. I applaud Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Casey Hammond for their leadership. I’m confident the four recreational shooting sites located in Maricopa and Pinal Counties will be welcomed and put to good use,” said Western Caucus Chairman Congressman Paul Gosar.
“Since the beginning of my tenure, I’ve considered public access a critical component of our land management, and today we are keeping our promises with an innovative pilot project to increase recreational access to our public lands,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “Recreational shooting is one of our nation’s oldest and most popular pastimes. These activities generate funds that support wildlife conservation, public land restoration projects, and hunter education. This is a win for all, and under President Trump’s leadership, we’re committed to supporting and facilitating recreational shooting on public lands.”
“Promoting and protecting use and enjoyment of public lands is a core part of BLM’s mission,” said Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, exercising the authority of the BLM Director. “We’re excited to learn from this pilot program to identify ways that we can provide greater recreational shooting opportunities while ensuring that other activities and public uses can continue to the greatest degree possible.”
“Maricopa County is the fastest growing county in the nation, and more people means increased demands for a variety of recreation activities on the public lands that surround the metro Phoenix area,” said Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas. “We’ve heard from shooting sports enthusiasts and local citizens who have asked us to more actively manage recreational shooting on public lands around the Valley. We believe this pilot offers a framework for enhanced access, public safety, and natural resource stewardship. We are seeking public input as we prepare an environmental assessment of the proposal.”
“The Arizona Game and Fish Department operates developed shooting facilities throughout the state and has partnered with other government agencies, clubs, and other organizations to develop shooting ranges,” Arizona Game and Fish Department Shooting Sports Branch Chief Mike Raum said. “While many shooters use such facilities, there are always going to be those who seek a less structured environment in which to shoot. We look forward to assisting the BLM to develop recreational target shooting opportunities where shooters can practice in suitable, safe places on public land.”
The pilot will not change existing dispersed recreational shooting access, with approximately 97 percent of BLM-managed lands in Arizona remaining open to shooting sports. The pilot will also not affect licensed hunting on public lands.
A 30-day public scoping period will run from June 3 to July 2, 2019. Public input during scoping will guide the BLM’s development of an environmental assessment of the proposal. Public scoping meetings will be held at the following locations:
June 11, 2019: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Buckeye Community Center, 201 East Centre Avenue, Buckeye, AZ 85326.
June 13, 2019: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Arizona Game and Fish Department Headquarters, Eagle Conference Room, 5000 West Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.