Target shooters are triggering concern for public safety on public lands near Fishtrap Lake about 30 miles west of Spokane.
A growing number of complaints about shooting in proximity to local residents as well as hikers, bikers, horse riders and other visitors has prompted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to propose restrictions on target shooting.
Comments are being accepted until May 6 on two proposals that would ban target shooting in portions of the 9,000 acres BLM manages near the popular fishing lake. The proposals do not affect hunting or possession of firearms on public land, officials said.
“We’ve been getting complaints over a period of years, but recently it’s become worse,” said Scott Pavey, BLM’s Spokane field manager. “With its proximity to Spokane, the use is going up and so are the problems, to the point we need to do something about it.”
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently addressed similar issues by establishing no-shooting area around camping areas on some state wildlife lands.
“I was surprised at how much heartburn some shooters gave us over such as common sense proposal,” said George Orr, Fish and Wildlife commissioner from Spokane.
The two BLM proposals for the Fishtrap Lake Recreation Area include creating:
• Buffer zones of 100 feet along high use areas — such as roads, trailheads, parking lots, bulletin boards, and corrals — where discharging firearms would be prohibited.
•A larger no-target-shooting zone in the area where most other types of recreation occur.
Current federal regulations already prohibit shooting on or across roads and trails, across a body of water (except for waterfowl hunting), and within or toward areas where people are camped or gathered.
Shooting also is prohibited after dark, with some exceptions.
But attempts to step up enforcement of these rules haven’t been doing the job of maintaining safety at Fishtrap, Pavey said.
BLM staff has been receiving 40-50 complaints a year regarding shooting activity, an increase of about 20 percent from five years ago, said Mike Shannahan, Spokane District enforcement officer.
Some complaints come from people who are not aware that target shooting is allowed in the area, according to BLM’s background information. Some complaints involve shooters who were not aware that they were endangering other visitors and livestock.
“There have been few incidents related to hunting, which is also popular in this area,” says the scoping notice announcement. “The majority of incidents and concerns involve only target shooting.”
The proposed shooting restrictions would help increase public awareness of target shooting and make enforcement easier, Pavey said.
Details on the proposals and making comments are available online at www.blm.gov/or/districts/ spokane/plans or from the Spokane BLM District Office, 1103 North Fancher Rd. in Spokane Valley, (509) 536-1200.