January 6, 2017 — A project to remove lead from an abandoned shooting range on Arizona’s Prescott National Forest should be completed by the end of the month, Forest Service officials say. But the cost of the cleanup, covered by taxpayers, has generated criticism from some who say recreational shooters who left behind the mess should pay to clean it up.
The site served as a shooting range for 57 years, under the terms of special use permits issued by the Forest Service.
The last permit, held by the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club, expired a little more than a year ago. The range, which is close to private residences, contains high levels of lead from spent ammunition.
Forest Service officials will pay a contractor at least $667,000 to remove the lead and restore the site by removing berms and contaminated soil, and planting native vegetation.
Members of the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club have since moved to another shooting range that is not on national forest land.
Gary Beverly, chair of the Sierra Club’s Yavapai Group, cosigned a letter to the Forest Service last August expressing concerns about the project. The letter urged the agency to take steps to ensure that recreational shooters clean up after themselves when shooting on national forests.
Members of the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club “basically walked away from a mess and now shoot at an area 18 miles to the north that is right next to my house,” Beverly said. “So here we have a private entity that walked away and left taxpayers holding the bill.”
The Sierra Club letter, which was also signed by Sandy Bahr, director of the group’s Grand Canyon chapter, and by Doris Cellarius, co-chair of the group’s National Toxics Exposures Task Force, urged the Forest Service to require those who run shooting ranges on national forests to follow lead management practices outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“(W)e recommend that the Forest Service look into how it deals with other shooting ranges where they lease public lands for this kind of activity,” the letter said. “They should at least be provided with the EPA manual and the (Forest Service) should monitor whether they are taking action to manage shooting ranges properly.”
Prescott National Forest District Ranger Sarah Tomsky said the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club lacked sufficient funds to clean up the site.
“It’s in the interest of public safety, since we have the funds available, to clean up the hazardous material,” she said. “We want to be able to open that site up to the public.”