The United States Department of the Interior has drafted new legislation that would potentially kick firearms enthusiasts off of millions of acres of public lands in order to keep them from “freaking out” urbanites who like to use the land for hiking and dog walking.
According to an article written by Paul Bedard for Washington Whispers, if the Interior Department is successful, large portions of the 245 million acres of public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management will likely be off-limits for hunting and target practice. The biggest impact of the laws will be to tracts of land situated in the West.
“It’s not so much a safety issue. It’s a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with the Bureau.
The draft regulations raise concerns about how shooting can cause a “public disturbance,” and also say that shooters can hurt plants and litter public lands.
According to the article, Land Management officers will be assigned the task of assessing areas where hunting or target practice often take place to determine if the area is being misused or if other users of the land are being annoyed by the presence of firearms.
The Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, which represents many organizations that promote hunting and gun sports, is fighting the new rules and has worked to draft a counterproposal to the rules.
Those fighting the rules note that shooters bring fewer accidents and less destruction to public land than other recreationists such as ATV riders.
Since this story first broke, the Interior Department has been under heavy pressure from gun owners to ensure that public lands remain for shooting sports.
A Department official said yesterday that the agency supports shooters and has a goal of keeping most of the land available to them, though some areas closer to homes will be made off limits.