by Dave Workman
Two weeks after the US Forest Service (USFS) issued a memorandum to every national forest and ranger district in the country that roads “should not be considered inherently occupied areas,” which would have allowed rangers to ban shooting within 150 yards of any road, the Boulder, CO, ranger district was continuing to enforce the prohibition.
On top of that, the ranger district’s enforcement officer, Paul Krisanits, told Gun Week, “If somebody is within 150 yards of me and they discharge a firearm, my being there makes it an occupied area.”
“That’s been my take on it,” he said, “and our courts have supported it.”
The 150-yard shooting prohibition is detailed in a once-obscure national forest regulation, 36 CFR 261.10(d), which prohibits shooting:
(1) In or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area, or,
(2) Across or on a National Forest System road or a body of water adjacent thereto, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result in such discharge, and
(3) Into or within any cave.
It’s the debate over what constitutes an “occupied area” that ignited the recreational shooting controversy more than two years ago. Gun Week coverage of this story was at least partly credited for keeping the spotlight on the situation, leading to the Aug. 28 memorandum, signed by Joel Holtrop, deputy chief of the National Forest System.
The Boulder Ranger District became “ground zero” in this controversy, because that is where the debate erupted after the district ranger closed a popular roadside shooting area on the grounds that it was within 150 yards of the road.
Krisanits said he has not written “a lot of tickets” for people caught shooting in such roadside environments, but he has issued a lot of warnings. He has not arrested anyone for recreational shooting violations.
That makes no difference to Boulder-area resident Jay Lawless, who became furious recently when, according to his account, he was told by a staffer at the Boulder ranger station that roads and even trails are considered “occupied areas.”
“There are precious damn few places in these mountains that aren’t within 150 yards of some trail,” he said.
Lawless asserted that the USFS has a plan to shut down all national forest lands within two hours driving time from Denver to recreational shooting.
“In the Pike National Forest west of Colorado Springs,” he said, “the Forest Service built a nice shooting range and it can’t be 20 yards off the road. Also, up at Bailey, the Forest Service has an impromptu shooting area up there that they’ve been sending people to for years.”
Advised of the problem, Melissa Simpson, deputy undersecretary of Agriculture, told Gun Week that her office would investigate.
Krisanits said he had not personally seen the Aug. 28 Holtrop memorandum. Gun Week forwarded the text for his attention.
The memorandum is explicit in two places. Roads are not to be considered “occupied areas.” A prohibition remains against shooting along or across a road or adjacent body of water, “or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result in such discharge.”
Part of the problem with recreational shooting in the Boulder Ranger District is that, according to Krisanits, there are lots of private land parcels interspersed throughout.
“We have about 185,000 acres,” he said. “It is relatively small, and ‘checkerboard’ would be a kind way of describing the district. We do have some larger blocks of national forest, but when you compare it to traditional national forest land, you would be pretty surprised by all the private land mixed in.”