A 2022 court settlement requires the Bureau of Land Management to reign in hazardous target shooting.
ARIZONA, USA — Parts of the Sonoran desert are riddled with holes and lead. Gunfire from years of irresponsible target shooting has torn up Saguaro cacti and chewed ancient petroglyphs off the rocks.
As of now, target shooting is allowed on roughly 90 percent of the Sonoran Desert National Monument. But a new proposal from the Bureau of Land Management would drastically reduce that, limiting shooting to 5,295 acres of the 486,400-acre monument — about 1 percent of the monument.
“Recreational target shooting is an ongoing use of BLM lands historically and continues to be,” said Chris Wonderly, a spokesman with the bureau. He stressed that the new plan was focused on the monument. “The BLM does continue to develop those recreational target shooting sites outside the monument, and lands remain available outside the monument as well.”
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>>The above photo shows a Saguaro cactus illegally damaged by buck shot in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
Previously, the BLM found that recreational target shooting on the monument led to extensive damage to Saguaros and Native American petroglyphs on the monument. Additionally, some sites posed a significant enough health risk that volunteer cleanup efforts had to be suspended.
The proposed resource management plan comes in the wake of an April 2022 court settlement that required the BLM to reassess how it handled recreational target shooting on the monument. Activist groups found that the bureau wasn’t doing enough to protect environmental and cultural artifacts on the monument, and sued.
This isn’t the first time that the BLM has had to make a decision about target shooting in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
In 2012, the BLM finalized a resource management plan that allowed shooting on 100 percent of monument land. However, a 2015 court order required the BLM to reanalyze the impact of that allowance.
Revisions to the plan that were considered included restricting target shooting to certain areas, or banning it outright from the monument. Three years later in 2018, the bureau finalized a new resource management plan that disallowed shooting on 10 percent of the Sonoran Desert National Monument’s land.
But sportsmen aren’t out of luck. Wonderly stressed that these changes would only impact the Sonoran Desert National Monument, not the rest of the 12.1 million acres the bureau manages.
“Teah, recreation target shooting is allowed on BLM land throughout the state. Just so long as it’s conducted safely with appropriate backstops and everything,” he said.
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed closure will open Monday, Jan. 21. A 30-day protest period on the resource management plan starts the same day. The new plan will take effect once the bureau has had time to respond to comments and adjust as needed.
Interested parties can email BLM_AZ_SDNMtargetshooting@blm.gov or submit comments via mail to BLM Sonoran Desert National Monument, Attn.: RMPA EA, 2020 E. Bell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85022. Comments must be received by March 22.
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