It has been a busy summer for local offices of emergency management and county law enforcement.
At the September Teller County Local Emergency Planning Committee-Citizen Corps meeting, county emergency management Director Steve Steed said there is a small link between Teller County and violent crimes in El Paso County.
“People come up here to practice shooting in our national forests and then commit crimes in El Paso County,” he said.
People who use the forest for criminal activities are rare, however, and recreational shooting is not illegal on national forest land, he said. In fact, with the closing of the Rampart Range shooting range, Pike National Forest becomes the only area outside of club-owned ranges where recreational shooting is legal.
“We’ve always encouraged and promoted shooting sports in our national forests,” said Pike National Forest Public Affairs Officer Barbara Timock. “There are a lot of great areas for shooting but please be mindful of other people.”
She added that more and more homes are being built in or near the national forest and that sites available for shooting five years ago might not be available now.
“You might have to scout out some new areas,” she said. “We don’t keep statistics on how many people use the forests for recreational shooting. No one signs in or out so there are no records.”
Pike National Forest covers parts of four counties and there literally hundreds of ways for people to access the forest. One popular access point is Mt. Herman Road, which leads into Pike National Forest from Monument and meets Rampart Range Road in Teller County.
While people can use the forest for target practice and skeet shooting, there are limits as to where.
Locally, there are three closure areas where shooting outside of hunting season is not allowed. One is located between the summit of Mt. Herman and the eastern edge of Monument. Another lies between U.S. 24 at Woodland Park and Stanley Reservoir and includes Rampart Reservoir. The third surrounds national forest camping areas on both sides of Colo. 67 north of Woodland Park.
One of the most important restrictions to recreational shooting and target practice in the national forest, and the reason behind closure areas, is the prohibition against discharging a firearm within 150 feet of a residence, building, campsite, occupied area or into or within a cave.
Other rules include:
Don’t shoot across trails and roads and never shoot into or across canyons, lakes, ponds and streams.
Don’t shoot at trees and don’t attach targets to trees.
Never shoot at signs.
Bullets can carry 1-2 miles so always shoot into earthen backdrops, such as the side of a hill, and never shoot at rocks — ricochet can kill.
Don’t shoot after dark or from a moving vehicle.
Use only paper or biodegradable targets and collect and remove all shooting debris and trash when leaving the forest.
“Never shoot at glass (bottles),” Timock said. “You’ll never find all the pieces.”
Don’t drink and shoot.
Obeying these rules means always being aware of surroundings, including what might be over the next ridge or behind a stand of trees.
A recreational shooting brochure for Pike National Forest is available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5324963.pdf.