Decision would build shooting ranges, restrict dispersed shooting

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By Corinne Westeman

A draft decision by the U.S. Forest Service would require shooting ranges be built locally and restrict shooting on some land in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.

Restricting shooting would ensure safer recreational sport shooting, and it would affect approximately 43,600 acres of Forest Service land in Clear Creek County, according to a news release. In total, the decision would restrict shooting on 225,574 acres of the Forests’ 1.4 million acres, but only once shooting ranges had been built locally.

The closures would be near road corridors and residences and/or in heavily concentrated recreational areas where stakeholders have identified specific safety concerns.

Other areas of the forest would still be available for recreational sport shooting, and the decision wouldn’t affect lawful hunting with a firearm in areas where it is currently allowed, Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman confirmed.

Cloudman emphasized that this is still a draft decision, and there is a 45-day objection period for those individuals and entities who previously submitted formal comment.

A final decision is expected by early 2019, if not sooner, she said.

Clear Creek Commissioner Tim Mauck said the draft decision, which the county has been working on with the Forest Service for five years, is a win-win situation for Clear Creek, as it will greatly eliminate conflicts between recreational shooters and residents.

“I think that the deliberative nature of this, it’s really given us a draft decision that the partners are all really excited about,” he continued. “… I think this is a real cause for appreciation for all the hard work by everybody — residents and sport shooting enthusiasts.”

Mauck explained that the draft decision would restrict dispersed shooting in areas around the county where there have been close calls, such as the York Gulch, Old Squaw Pass and Highway 103 areas and the meadow above Idaho Springs’ Montane Park.

However, both Mauck and Cloudman explained that these closures — if approved — would only go into effect once a formal shooting range had been built in the general area.

For instance, dispersed shooting in Clear Creek County south of I-70 wouldn’t go into effect until the Devil’s Nose shooting range opened. Cloudman said the Forest Service was hoping to start construction on Devil’s Nose in the summer of 2019.

For sections north of I-70 to be closed, Mauck said, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties would have to provide 25 lanes at either one shared shooting range or between two smaller ranges.

Across the affected counties, four or five ranges will be built for all the restrictions to take effect, Cloudman said.

“Without implementation happening for another year or more, there’s not going to be an immediate change,” Cloudman continued. “… The project is about safety — both of those that are visiting the forest for whatever activity and of those who live adjacent to the forest.”

In the meantime, the Forest Service is exploring ways to educate people on the drafted closures, such as signage and a possible phone app, and working with counties on how to implement and enforce the closures.

“Safety is something that can pull us all together,” Cloudman said.

For more information, including an interactive map of the proposed closures, visit fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46910.