Boulder County, Gilpin County, Clear Creek County and Larimer County are all grappling with how to regulate recreational shooting in National Forests in their jurisdictions.
The counties joined together 3 years ago, with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the US Forest Service in a collaborative effort, Northern Front Range Recreational Sport Shooting Management Partnership, with a view to managing recreational shooting while addressing conflicts near residential areas and with other recreation users across the northern Colorado Front Range. The current forest plan which was developed in the 1990s does not have guidelines for shooting. Garry Sanfacon with Boulder County says that with an increase in people living near National Forests and more people recreating in the area, there is a need to figure out a strategy to manage this issue. “The bottom line is there are more of us living and recreating in the mountains now and in the forests so the conflicts are just increasing.”
Currently it is legal for people to go into the National Forests and recreationally shoot as long as they are doing it responsibly and respectfully at a safe distance from structures, however Sanfacon says that there are many complaints being made in Boulder County as a result of recreational shooting.
“The Boulder County sheriff’s office between an 18 month period in 2015 and 2016 fielded over 900 calls related to recreational sports shooting issues from various parties.”
Complaints range from safety concerns to noise complaints. In 2015 a 60 year old Colorado man who was camping in Pike National Forest was killed by a stray bullet from a recreational shooter. A recreational shooter in Larimer County was recently injured by a stray bullet from another recreational shooter.
Sanfacon says that no injuries have been reported in Boulder County but they’ve heard reports about stray bullets being found in people’s driveways, leading to concerns about safety. There are also concerns being raised about the possibility of recreational shooting starting forest fires.
One of the ideas being considered is to close off part of Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests to shooting and create a designated shooting range. Legal hunting would not be impacted by any changes made to the forest management plan.
“We’re not trying to eliminate all shooting, that’s not the goal of the partnership, we know that the vast majority of shooters are responsible, safe and respectful, so it’s not about eliminating all opportunities, but it’s really trying to do a better job of managing this activity and providing opportunities for them to shoot in a safe manner.”
There will be an open house to get public input on the Forest Service Recreational Sport Shooting Project on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm at the Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St in Boulder.
Public comments can also be submitted on line at sportshootingpartners.org. The Forest Service says it would be most useful to have public comments submitted by the end of November.