Unsafe Target Shooting on BLM Land in the Little Applegate

Anderson Butte and the surrounding Dakubetede Roadless Area are well-loved by residents of the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. The BLM has allowed irresponsible recreational uses to badly degrade the mountain’s beauty. We want our mountain back!

The public deserves a safe, beautiful, natural experience on their public lands. The BLM has an obligation to provide this experience, yet in many places around the Applegate Valley they have failed to do so.

Lack of enforcement capacity and lack of motivation to responsibly deal with various irresponsible recreational activities has turned our spectacular backyard landscapes, such as Anderson Butte, into trashed-out playgrounds for unauthorized OHV users and irresponsible shooting. ANN believes this issue affects the quality of habitat on our public lands; we also believe it impacts the quality of life available to surrounding communities. Rather than beautiful vistas, gorgeous wildflowers and spectacular habitats, what we see are shot gun shells, shell casings, shot-up TVs and appliances, illegal dumping, damaging OHV trails and bullets whizzing by on hiking trails — this is what one remembers when visiting portions of our public land.   Many in the Applegate Valley have had enough. Have you?

Below is a letter submitted by ANN to the Medford District BLM regarding unsafe and irresponsible target shooting near Anderson Butte. This issue is becoming increasingly dangerous and is displacing other forms of public use, such as hiking on the nearby Jack-Ash and Sterling Ditch Trail systems, botanizing, birding, mountain biking, driving for pleasure, etc.

If you are a landowner in the area or spend time in the area, please contact Medford District BLM, District Manager, Elizabeth Burghard, and share your concerns regarding unsafe target shooting, unauthorized OHV use, illegal dumping, and other forms of inappropriate and impactful public use in the Anderson Butte area.

Ms. Elizabeth Burghard
District Manager
Medford BLM
3040 Biddle Rd
Medford, OR 97504

eburghar@blm.gov

Dear Elizabeth,

Applegate Neighborhood Network (ANN) would like to provide input on the management of our public lands in the Applegate Valley. More specifically, we would like to provide input on long-standing problems associated with unsafe target shooting and tannerite use in the Anderson Butte area. In recent years, unsafe target shooting has become an increasingly dangerous and damaging use of our public lands around Anderson Butte. Target shooting and illegal dumping seem to be closely associated in the area. The vast majority of old log landings, quarries, and pullouts along the road system have become illegal dumping and target shooting sites.

Irresponsible target shooting is currently a significant public safety risk with shooting enthusiasts firing across open BLM roads, off steep hillsides, towards hiking trails, and towards residences along Griffin Lane, Sterling Creek Road, Little Applegate Road and in the few private residential inholdings in the area.

This sign is located on a ridge above the residential community on Griffin Lane. A stray bullet from this site lodged in a neighbor’s door in the community below. Instead of closing the site, BLM responded by installing this sign that encourages continued shooting at this unsafe location. The sign should read: “Caution Homes Below, No Shooting.”

In January of 2016, residents on Griffin Lane had a bullet from the Anderson Butte area lodge in their front door. Nearby homeowners are subjected to daily safety risks on their own property due to unsafe target shooting on BLM lands. In fact, BLM signage is currently encouraging unsafe target shooting in the area. For example, on an exposed ridge above Grub Gulch, the BLM has posted a sign stating, “Caution, Homes Below, Know Your Backstop.” The sign encourages shooting enthusiasts to utilize the exposed ridgetop for shooting and draws attention to the site. Ironically, no safe backstop exists on the ridgeline and homes are located directly below, in range of stray bullets.

Hikers, mountain bikers, recreational drivers, botanists, mushroom pickers, hunters and other forest users are routinely put at risk due to unsafe target shooting. Major BLM recreational improvements and trailheads for the Wolf Gap Trail, Jack-Ash Trail, and Sterling Ditch Trail have become target shooting areas, putting non-motorized trail users at significant risk. The BLM must act before someone is hurt or killed. Currently, other public land users are abandoning premiere recreational facilities, including the only Oregon State Scenic Trail, the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, due to valid safety concerns.

A shooting site on the ridgeline above the residential community on Sterling Creek Road.

Much of the current problem comes from a complete lack of management and law enforcement. For many years, the Anderson Butte region has been a free-for-all, with blatant unauthorized OHV use tearing up the hillsides, unsafe target shooting, illegal dumping, and other forms of inappropriate use degrading public lands and spilling out into nearby communities. BLM land managers have refused to address these issues with appropriate action and have set a precedent of impunity and inaction. As a direct consequence, one of the region’s most cherished backyard recreational opportunities is being abandoned by responsible recreational users and destroyed by a combination of inappropriate public use and BLM inaction.

Unsafe and irresponsible target shooting is not only threatening public safety, but it is also damaging public resources. This tree was killed by a combination of excessive shooting and tannerite explosions.

According to the RMP, the Sterling Mine Ditch Trailheads and Jack-Ash Trailheads are “closed to shooting.” Likewise, the entire Anderson Additions Extensive Recreational Management Area is under a firearms restriction, including buffers along “trail corridors and trailheads to provide public safety.” The BLM has an obligation to immediately implement these management directives in the Anderson Butte area, before someone is killed.

The BLM must close the entire Anderson Butte area to target shooting. The 2016 RMP gives the BLM the authority to immediately take action, close and post the trailheads for the Sterling Ditch Trail and Jack-Ash Trail, “Closed to Target Shooting.” Our immediate concern is the safety of the public who uses these lands and the nearby residents. The current status quo at Anderson Butte is unacceptable.

We urge the BLM to consider an area-wide closure to target shooting on all BLM land between Wagner Creek Road, Griffin Creek Road, Griffin Lane, Sterling Creek Road and Little Applegate Road. The BLM should also increase law enforcement patrols to limit violation of the target shooting closure and reduce illegal dumping. The public deserves a safe space to recreate on Anderson Butte and enjoy their public lands.

Thank you for your time,

Luke Ruediger/Program Coordinator
Applegate Neighborhood Network

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