What’s up with the Coconino National Forest? Reading the draft EIS for the Coconino National Forest Plan in regards to recreational shooting is like reading a mystery novel.
The proposal to close all of unit 5B and parts of unit 5A, representing 29 percent of the Coconino National Forest, to recreational shooting if alternative C is chosen is based on what? The EIS certainly does not identify any fact-based reason for this restriction to be a part of any alternative.
We’re talking about the area from Winona to Strawberry (that is a 110-mile drive) and from 7 miles east of Flagstaff to halfway to Winslow. Seems the farther from Flagstaff, the more acceptable recreational shooting would be — but apparently not. At least this alternative carved out the location of the Northern Arizona Shooting Range from this potential closure.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Arizona has 430,391 recreational shooters. These shooters spent 15,689,374 shooter days generating $366.3 million in economic activity in the state in 2011.
The EIS does say there is no data on any negative impact of recreational shooting to other forest users, only “anecdotal” evidence that some people find it objectionable.
As the number of gun owners and recreational shooters has increased, the Coconino National Forest has not been what one would call accommodating to the needs of shooters. Where some national forests actually build multiple neighborhood ranges for the use of their local communities, the Coconino has gone the opposite direction.
In fact, there have been 20 years of delay in establishing on the Coconino a shooting range near Flagstaff, despite the best efforts of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and shooting groups. This included trading some very valuable Arizona Game and Fish Department-owned property to the Forest Service in exchange for a shooting range location.
After all the years of frustration, the Game and Fish Department gave up and bought the Foster Ranch located east of Walnut Canyon.
The Northern Arizona Shooting Range is up and running and improving day by day. But if you are a shooter who prefers a more casual shooting experience or are a camper who does some shooting during your camping time, the Coconino National Forest would apparently prefer you to just go away and may reduce your options severely when the new proposed forest plan is adopted. Apparently your form of recreation is not on the approved list. No reasons given; they just don’t like shooters.
This is even more mysterious because the EIS trumpets the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) that supposedly provides a framework for administrators to manage and users to enjoy a variety of recreation environments. ROS is not a land classification system; it is a management objective, a way of describing and providing a variety of recreation opportunities (USDA Forest Service 1982b).
So if you like mystery novels, give the Coconino National Forest EIS a read. Hopefully Alternative C does not become the chosen alternative.