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Forest Service Plans for Guns on Public Lands

India Peaks Wilderness, in Colorado's front range. Credit: Hogs555/Wikimedia Commons.
India Peaks Wilderness, in Colorado's front range. Credit: Hogs555/Wikimedia Commons.
August 31, 2015

DENVER - The U.S. Forest Service is holding a public hearing tonight in Nederland on its proposed management plan for recreational shooting along Colorado's front range.

The agency has seen an increase in people using public lands for target practice along with an increase in other recreational activities. Stuart Dodd, board chairman with the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance, says public safety is the biggest concern.

"We have a lot of people who visit the wilderness; we work to preserve and protect that," says Dodd. "We simply don't want to have some of the situations that we saw happen down in other areas in Colorado take place in the Indian Peaks."

Dodd is referring to the recent death of a 60-year-old camper hit by a stray bullet in an area banned for target practice in the Pike National Forest.

The forest service's proposal leaves current hunting rules intact and would establish at least one designated shooting area within each county inside or adjacent to the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. The National Rifle Association is against limiting shooting areas, and has called for improvements such as berms, target holders and benches.

Dodd says a wildfire sparked at a shooting range in Grand County last week burned 640 acres. He says the agency should keep fire and stray bullets out of nationally protected wilderness areas.

"Where the public can go to appreciate the beauty of wilderness, appreciate really what we have done as a country to set aside areas that one can reconnect with nature quite honestly here in Colorado in many of our own back yards," he says.

In addition to tonight's meeting at the Nederland Community Center, the Forest Service will hear comments Tuesday in Idaho Springs and Wednesday in Fort Collins.

Meetings begin at 5 p.m. The agency is also accepting written comments through September 9.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO