In January 2019, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project to address serious public safety concerns with inappropriate, irresponsible, and unsafe target shooting near Anderson Butte in the Little Applegate River Watershed.
For many years, the BLM has allowed unmanaged and irresponsible target shooting to expand across the face of Anderson Butte and throughout Medford District BLM lands. This activity has threatened lives, contaminated forest soils with lead bullets, encouraged illegal dumping on unauthorized shooting sites, and pushed other public land users off the landscape, literally out of fear for their own lives.
Also for many years, local community members and public land visitors have complained to the Medford District BLM about the obvious safety risks posed by people shooting down public roads, across public hiking trails and off big open spaces elevated directly above rural communities. In January 2016, a neighbor on Griffin Lane had a bullet fired from BLM land above her home and lodge into her front door. Other neighbors have also been threatened by stray bullets shot from BLM land towards their private residential properties. Likewise, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers utilizing the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (an Oregon State Scenic Trail), the Jack-Ash Trail, and the Wolf Gap Trail have also been threatened by stray bullets while enjoying their public lands.
Public land managers across the country have begun limiting target shooting to safe and ecologically appropriate sites that do not threaten the safety of other public land users, yet our local BLM has allowed public safety concerns to escalate, and recreational shooting now overwhelms and displaces other users in the Anderson Butte area and throughout other portions of the Medford District. We do not believe going for a hike on public lands should be a life threatening experience, nor do we believe that nearby landowners should have to be regularly threatened by stray bullets on their own land.
Currently, the Medford District BLM’s so-called multiple use policy has been replaced and subverted, in many locations, by a “dominant use” policy, where the most intrusive, intimidating, damaging and dominant forms of recreational use are the most prominent, but not the most popular uses of public land.
At times, to truly provide for multiple uses and to accommodate a wide variety of public land users, the BLM must curtail incompatible uses to maintain both public safety and ensure enjoyable, high quality recreational opportunities are available to all public land users. Currently, the Anderson Butte area is suffering from agency neglect, indifference and bias that creates a de facto “dominant use” policy.
Although numerous trailheads in the region were “closed to target shooting” in the BLM’s 2016 Resource Management Plan, these closures have gone completely unenforced, and the problem only intensified following the development of the Jack-Ash Trail in 2017.
The Jack-Ash Trail was heavily supported by the surrounding communities and required significant collaborative efforts between the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association, the public and the BLM. The project was approved by the BLM and funded through private donations, grants, extensive volunteer efforts and agency support. Yet, rather than provide a safe recreational experience for the public, the BLM has allowed the situation to become extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, many hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers have experienced the trauma of approaching a trailhead with excessive automatic gunfire occurring. They have felt unsafe and vulnerable to bullets raining down on designated recreational trails. The impact to trail users has created a situation where people decide to either risk their lives enjoying the Jack-Ash Trail, or avoid the area altogether. After the considerable collaborative and volunteer efforts to build this beautiful non-motorized trail, public members are frustrated and upset that basic public safety has not been maintained by our local land managers.
The situation is particularly problematic not only because of the level of recreational use and the number of residential properties surrounding the area, but also because of the open nature of the environment on Anderson Butte. Much of the area supports south- and west-facing slopes with broad sloping grasslands and large stands of chaparral. These areas do not provide an adequate backstop and bullets can fly unobstructed across long distances towards homes, communities and public recreational trails. The situation is extremely dangerous, and at some point someone could be killed or injured by stray bullets. We ask the BLM to act before that happens and close the area to recreational shooting.
Multiple fires have also been started in the Anderson Butte area since 2002 from irresponsible target shooting, further threatening the communities below. These human caused ignitions are preventable and can be reduced by prohibiting target shooting in the Anderson Butte area.
Finally, after decades of pressure by residents and other recreational users, the BLM proposed the Anderson Butte Safety Project. This project proposes the closure of 11 specific sites to recreational target shooting, totaling 50 acres on BLM lands near Anderson Butte. The closures are currently proposed for only two years and, unfortunately, the BLM is addressing this long-term public safety problem, with a temporary, short-term “solution.”
Way back in January of 2019, the BLM accepted public comments on the Anderson Butte Safety Project and the associated Environmental Assessment (EA). ANN and many others submitted substantive comments on the project and had hoped to see the closures move forward, but the project has been stymied since that time and no progress has been made. Now two years later, after as many years as the closure is proposed to last, the BLM has initiated an additional 60-day comment period before releasing a final decision and working to maintain public safety in this beautiful area.
Unfortunately, the 2019 John Dingle Jr. Conservation and Recreation Act, which contained many good provisions and new wilderness areas, also requires an additional 60-day comment period before the BLM can release a final decision and close small portions of the area to target shooting. That comment period extends to January 3, 2022. We hope you will again speak up for the safety of residents, trail users and other public land users on Anderson Butte.
Join us by commenting on this project and asking the BLM to:
- Institute a permanent recreational shooting closure to restore public safety throughout BLM lands near Anderson Butte, including the area between Talent and Phoenix, Oregon, the Little Applegate River, Wagner Creek Road and Sterling Creek Road. The proposed two year closure on 11 specific sites is not adequate to protect and maintain the safety of other public land users and nearby private property owners.
- Implement and fund aggressive monitoring, signage and enforcement of this closure to ensure compliance and maintain public safety.
- Conduct a separate, comprehensive, district-wide NEPA project analyzing recreational shooting on Medford District BLM lands. This process should close most BLM land to target shooting, while designating a limited number of safe public shooting sites on BLM lands. These sites should be specifically chosen because they do not threaten nearby homeowners, do not conflict with other recreational uses such as hiking and driving on backcountry roads, do not create excessive environmental impacts, and will not contaminate soils in riparian areas with lead shot.
To be very clear, ANN does not oppose the Second Amendment and we understand the right of individuals to bear arms. We take no position on public land hunting and acknowledge ethical, backcountry hunting as a valid public land use. Yet, we do take a position on irresponsible, dispersed public land shooting. We are extremely concerned by the impacts associated with irresponsible shooting on our communities, to public safety and to our environment.
Click here for more information on the Anderson Butte Safety Project
Submit comments to: Tye Morgan, Ashland Planning and Environmental Specialist, by mailing the BLM,
Attn: Tye Morgan, 3040 Biddle Road, Medford, Oregon 97504; or through email at: BLM_OR_AFO_anderson_butte_sp@blm.gov (Subject: Anderson Butte Safety Project).
You may also submit comments via BLM’s ePlanning register on the project’s website by selecting the “Participate Now” tab, or in the Documents section of the webpage. The comment period ends on January 3, 2022.