The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to close 3,450 acres in Utah County's Lake Mountains to recreational shooting in response to years of resource damage that have scarred and spattered rock art, shot up rocks and trees, endangered public safety and ignited wildfires.
On Thursday, the BLM released a draft environmental assessment that favors the middle ground between leaving open all the public land in the planning area and closing more than 8,000 acres. Hunting and vehicle access would not be affected under this plan, expected to be finalized by year's end.
The BLM has been working in partnership with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and Utah County to manage impacts arising from "undisciplined shooting," which has littered the landscape with fragments of obliterated "targets" that include toilets, leaded TV glass, appliances and paint cans. BLM holdings there are interwoven with state trust and private lands.
The Utah Shooting Sports Council blasted it, however, saying the BLM's proposal scapegoats shooters and uses public safety and rock-art damage as an excuse to justify closures. Council board member Bill Pedersen said "billions of rounds" have been fired in this area over the past 40 years with no injuries.
"We see it as a wolf in sheep's clothing," he said. "You are losing access to 3,400 acres that's public land. They are talking about road closures. Now you will affect the ATV riders and horseback riders, all because of the fear-mongering of the shooters."
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by Brian Maffly