SHOOTING ON BLM LANDS BANNED FOR FIRE SEASON—BUT SOME RESIDENTS SAY MORE ENFORCEMENT IS NEEDED TO PREVENT FIRES IN BACKCOUNTRY

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By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Effective July 1st, the Bureau of Land Management has banned all recreational shooting on its federal lands in San Diego County due to high fire hazard declared by the California Department of Forestry.

The ban makes it illegal to discharge any pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle or other firearm, except for self-defense, until further notice.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has indicated it will increase patrols around known shooting areas including BLM lands, apply appropriate ordinances and penal codes, and educate shooters of potential fire dangers and Cal Fire suppression costs that shooters could be held liable for if they start a fire.

Rural Deputies will also physically respond to all calls of shooters on or around BLM land. The Sheriff’s Department will also work with Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service to support successful prosecution of state offenders.

But some neighbors of BLM property want to see even more action taken.

Alexander Wick took photos at Chicken Ranch Road at Donohoe Mountain in the Dulzura area, show shot-up beer cans, graffiti and dinner plates. “All have occurred since the temporary ban on recreational shooting,” he says.” Since there is no BLM enforcement agent patrolling this area, the posted No Shooting signs are being ignored by shooters.”

Wick notes that a recent fire near Highway 94 and Otay Lakes Road was caused by shooting.” We have called the Sheriffs 10 times when we hear shooters,” he says. ”This happens every year after the closure, and that is why the Dulzura residents have been requesting a full time closure for five years.”

Residents offer a proposed solution. “We have suggested the BLM choose one location for shooters away from houses. The Sycamore Canyon location is already inundated and known to shooters. It is located near the Cal Fire station and parking nearby prevents shooters from making new roads in the wilderness areas,” Wick states. ”Patrolling one area is manageable and trashcans and porta potties could be made available.”

He also wants to see a BLM law enforcement agent named to replace a vacancy left by the retirement of Joe Funk.

Wick concludes, “Can we stop ignoring the danger and spillover effects caused by shooters and find a permanent solution before an accident or a death?”

ECM asked the BLM for comment but we have not received a reply.

We also asked Captain Hank Turner with the Sheriff’s Alpine Rural Command for comment. He wrote, “Discharge of firearms in that area of the county is not illegal. People are still allowed to shoot on private property with the permission of the property owner. The Bureau of Land Management oversees all federal lands…when BLM restricts firearm use, we help them enforce the prohibition on their property. We will still respond to shooting calls in areas where it is legally allowed if it endangers the safety of the public or if the weapons/targets are illegal to possess,” he adds, citing exploding targets and machine guns as examples of items that are illegal to use in our rural areas.