WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Wednesday it will not impose new restrictions on recreational shooting on public lands, a Thanksgiving gift for thousands of gun owners and hunters concerned about a draft plan to limit target shooting near residential areas.
The policy, proposed this summer, could have closed millions of acres of federal land to gun use, a prospect that caused alarm among gun owners, particularly in the West, where target shooting on public land is a longtime tradition. Hunting season for deer and other game begins around Thanksgiving in many states.
Officials said they were trying to ensure public safety in rapidly growing areas of the West, where some residents have clashed with gun owners who use public lands for target practice.
In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department supports opportunities for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal land.
The memo directs BLM Director Bob Abbey to “take no further action to develop or implement” the draft policy on recreational shooting.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who had sharply criticized the earlier proposal, said Wednesday he was glad the Obama administration had reversed course.
The BLM said in announcing the draft policy on recreational shooting that many areas previously used for target practice are now too close to houses or other development. By 2020, such “hot spots” were projected in all 48 continental states, the BLM said.
The BLM draft plan would have provided gun owners with a map of nearby areas suitable for target practice.