Friday, May 12, 2006

The WAR IN THE WEST Heats Up

Okay, I said I washed my hands of the "shooting on public land" issue.

I lied, and here's why:

Last night, at the invitation of SOLDIER OF FORTUNE magazine publisher Bob Brown, I attended the first public meeting scheduled by the US Forest Service to, "Help in identifying your concerns and issues about recreational shooting, dispersed camping and campfires on the BRD [Boulder Ranger District] so that we may begin developing alternative approaches to address these users."

Let me set the scene for you...we were at a high school assembly room in Longmont, CO, at an open public meeting...

...and lined up behind us, against the back wall behind us, with — honestly! — their hands on their guns, were three local cops, including a Commander, and an armed Ranger!

At an open public meeting in a high school! What, was the National Guard not available on short notice? Or maybe all the firepower was there in case one of the birdwatchers who were expected to attend might go crazy, chirping and fluttering around the room.

Needless to say, Colonel Bob and I were dreadfully frightened. So much so that when Col. Bob stopped chuckling, he asked the representatives of the USFS about the show of force and were they on the clock or volunteers, and was given a rambling answer about how the Sheriff's Department were "stakeholders in the process." Of course. the problem was that there were no Sheriff's deputies there...on local cops, apparently "on the clock," ready to keep Col. Bob and I (and Steve Schreiner from the Firearms Coalition of Colorado, Greg Burt from Representative Marilyn Musgrave's office and the other Second Amendment supporters who turned up in response to an urgent NRA Bulletin) from going postal.

This program is part of the "Urban Front Country Initiative," which is alledgedly taking place along Colorado's Front Range. I can find out amazingly little about this program, despite a pretty substantial effort. I urge you to Google it yourself.

As went went into the meeting, we were given paperwork on the Urban Front Country Environment Assessment (interestingly enough, NOT on letterhead, as generally are all official government documents). Here's what the paper said:
Project Framework:
The Urban Front Country Initiative was created to address the issues of recreational overuse and inconsistent regulations on public lands in the Front Range. Activities included in the Initiative that the Boulder Ranger District will be addressing first priority are:
• Recreational shooting
• Dispersed camping
• Campfires
The form goes on to state that at this time USFS is only "gathering issues" surrounding recreational shooting. The document then provides a list of "issues" that have been "identified to date," and asks for our help to "review them and make any suggestions or add to them on the enclosed response form."

In other words, USFS has already decided what the issues are; we're supposed to select from Column A or add our own "issues" — we already know you beat your wife; do you beat your kids as well?

Col. Bob hammered away on FACTS — how were these issues determined? USFS said they received "complaints."

Were the complaints documented?

NO

Are there reports filed on any of the complaints?

NO

Finally, the head of the Boulder Ranger District said the complaints were based on "her experience." NO FACTS; NO DOCUMENTATIONS: NO RECORDS.

Here's the list of issues about recreational shooting:
Regulation Issues:
• 150 yard regulation — extend distance?
• What is the definition of an occupied site?
• What is the definition of an effective backdrop?
• How to interpret the regulations
• Regulations are hard to find
• Consistency with other agencies
• Enforcement

Safety:
• Near misses
• Perceived threat by Forest users and landowners
• Health impact on users (shooters and non-shooters) from shot up monitors, refrigerators and other appliances containing toxic materials
• Safety for Forest Service personnel working in the field
• Fires caused by shooters

Natural Resource Impacts:
• Soil contamination and soil erosion
• Water quality
• Wildlife habitat impacts
• Shooting of animals (domestic and wild) in a non-hunting capacity
• Vegetation
• Hazardous materials
• Trash — define and enforce
• Forest plan consistency

Recreation:
• Where to shoot? What opportunities are available to provide shooting?
• Displacement of shootings and other receationists, competing needs
• Types of experiences to provide given the diverse requirement of various types of firearms and shooter types (e.g. high power rifle versus handgun; compound bow versus semi-automatic rifle)
• Vandalism
• Foregone National Forest opportunities
• Destruction of culturla sites
• Shooting from vehicles
• Lack of specialized places to shoot designated just for shooters
• Lack of shooting opportunity
• Differing opportunity needs for differing shooting experiences
They did leave out...
• Shooter complicity in the Lindburg kidnapping

...but I'm sure someone will add it to the list.

Note the persistent references to "consistency with other agencies." This was important enough that the USFS had charts and graphs...Rocky Mt. National Park, Boulder and Larimar County Open Space, state parks, etc. I bought up the fact that each one of those agencies had a different mission...my analogy was comparing speed limits on an interstate highway, a state highway, a county road and the local dirt road to my house and then suggesting that all the speed limits should be the same in the interest of "consistency."

The response from USFS was that consistency was important because it was important to be consistent, because, well, consistency is important. "I didn't answer your question, did I?" said the noticeably embarrassed USFS rep. No ma'am, I replied, you didn't.

I could go on and one, but I'm too long already.

I remain more convinced than ever that this is a USFS pilot program to end shooting on public lands. Whether it was initiated locally or in Washington remaind to be seen, but I will be meeting with the executive staff of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation in D.C. next week, and hopefully will have a chance to fill in some of the Colorado Congressional delegation on the issue. I will also be meeting with NRA reps — Colonel Bob is a sitting member of the NRA Board of Director — in Milwaukee later in the week.

I was also reminded why we fight these battles, even when — like me — we're thoroughly sick of being on the front lines. Because on the day we lose, on the day the opponents of firearms and the Second Amendment have their way, what we are left with are the armed men in the back of the room and the ashes of what we once had.

5 comments:

Kristopher said...

So ... gun owners are considered terrorists? Or automatic drug users?

Or did they explain at all why they violated Posse Commitatus and had the military there?

Yea ... this is exactly like the way parking fees at wilderness trailheads got started ... a pilot program initiated by the Zigzag RD, followed by the entire Willamette national forest.

One district ranger gets a hair up her nose, and tries to float a balloon.

Making this fracas cost her a job will prevent this in the near future.

RipRIp said...

Kristopher thats "Armed Ranger" not Army Ranger.

Anonymous said...

Consistency.

Like the way target (not hunting) shooting was shut down completely in the Forest Service lands in north Texas.

Step 1: shooter's choice terminated in favor of a designated shooting area.

Step 2: shooting at designated area "temporarily" suspended while appropriate berms, etc. were constructed.

Step 3: Waiting for Hell to freeze over so money can be allocated to construct appropriate berms, etc. All the while noticing new bicycle trails, wheelchair-accessible fishing piers, and so on have plenty of budget money.

What you need to do is contact the Texas State Rifle Assn, find out what they did to work with the USFS, and then DON'T DO THAT.

Because now we got nothing.

Anonymous said...

I went out to the desert outside of Phoenix shooting today.
I saw a washer and dryer and other sundry items dumped out there.
This stuff was recent, no bullet holes, no rust.
So when it does get ventilated, is it the shooters fault that it's there? We're the ones that will take the hit for it.

Freaking shooters...always dumping stuff out there. There should be a ban or something.

BigBlk said...

Amen, Michael! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't stop putting up a fight. You're absolutely right; the day we lose the 2nd Amendment is the day we become a police state.