~ by Bob Volpe ~
A coalition of government organizations called the Southern Shooting Partnership (SSP), held a meeting last week at the Pikes Peak community center in Divide to discuss ways to provide safe areas for recreational shooters on public lands.
And as expected, the discussion, dubbed as a listening tour, sparked a lively debate among local residents, government officials and gun enthusiasts. The results of a current survey, ending at the end of this month, may determine whether locals will see more recreational shooting spots on nearby public lands, or if they may experience more restrictions.
But based on last week’s packed forum, opinions are highly divided on this subject that has sparked much controversy due to the booming growth in the Front Range, creating conflicts on public lands.
The SSP group consists of members of the Teller County government, U.S. Forest Service, Denver Water Board, Park County government, Colorado Springs Utilities, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Douglas, El Paso and Jefferson County governments, Fremont County and the Bureau of Land Management. The meeting was the latest SSP event designed to engage concerned citizens, sportsman groups, adjacent property owners to public lands, outdoor enthusiasts and other stakeholders. The goal of these discussions is to: Identify viable locations for a variety of recreational sport shooting facilities throughout the southern Front Range; Identify areas where recreational sport shooting activities may be inappropriate; Develop an information and education program that promotes safe and responsible shooting.
It was standing room only at the center. The meeting kicked off with the introduction of the government representatives of each of the coalition members present. Dan Williams, a planner for Teller County, hosted the event and moderated the discussion.
Williams made it clear the meeting was necessary as shooting on public lands has increased exponentially in recent years and the safety of other public land users has become an issue. He said, “Doing nothing is not an option.”
U.S. Forest Service Ecosystem Staff Officer, Oscar Martinez pointed to an area map to describe areas of the forest that have been closed on Rampart Range to shooting due to close calls with other user groups.
Martinez stated that the growing number of recreational shooters is a major factor in officials closing areas to shooting. He said, “I ‘kind of equate it to the new west verses the old west. In the old west there were just a lot fewer of us here. Those of us who were here grew up with some kind of sense of the space. Now we’ve just got too many folks using the same acreage and it creates conflicts.”
He also pointed out areas where the group is considering building shooting ranges.
Andy Hough of Douglas County Open Space told the audience that, “We are not here to shove anything down your throat. We’re reaching out to you guys before we get too far into this process.”
He explained the massive growth of the region is a major reason for conflicts between shooters and other recreational public land users. He said, “You’ve all seen the growth here. Douglas County’s population has grown six-fold since 1990. We’ve gone from 60,000 people in 1990 to 360,000 people
With all this growth, Hough noted that a “weekday now resembles what used to be a weekend” worth of use on public lands.
Forum sparks more questions than answers
When the meeting was turned over to the attendees, there was no shortage of questions, comments, and concerns directed at the panel.
One of the first to comment was business owner and civic leader Carl Andersen of Woodland Park.
Andersen stated that due to closures of places to camp and shoot, users are being funneled into smaller and smaller areas to pursue their favorite pastimes. He said, “I think part of the problem is, you’re
concentrating the public in certain areas and that creates conflicts in those areas.”
Another attendee brought up the issue of enforcement on public lands. explosive devices as targets, and the area is also being trashed out by people bringing old appliances like washing machines, propane tanks, and such to shoot at.
Deputy Forest and Grassland Supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, Dave Condit, pointed out manpower is a problem. He said, “We operate on federal tax dollars and that’s a push/pull thing. We want more out there, but also don’t want to have our taxes raised. We’re trying to find innovative solutions here.”
Martinez further addressed the issues at Turkey Tracks by explaining that social media plays a major role in shooters finding places to shoot, and Turkey Tracks is a prime example of that. As a result of
un-sportsmanlike shooting at Turkey Tracks, there have been 14 fires started there in recent years.
Those fires have cost Douglas County in the millions of dollars to put those fires out. Furthermore, Focus on the Forest has removed tons of trash from the Turkey Tracks area.
One audience member, who described himself as an NRA member, homeowner, recreational shooter, and permitted concealed carry person, said he worries about his livestock. He said, “I walked out my
backdoor and people were blasting away. They don’t even know I’m there.”
Other concerns and possible solutions mentioned by attendees were: better education on safe shooting, signage and fees at shooting areas.
Time running out on survey
The panel urged residents to take the online survey to express their suggestions and concerns. The survey ends on March 31 so time is short. The survey can be found at:
Or you can Google: Southern Shooting Partnership to find the link to the
The results of the survey could play a big role in determining the future direction of the SSP group that is currently trying to receive pubic input.