SALT LAKE CITY -- Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, has made progress in bringing back a bill that would allow the state forester to close certain areas in the state to target shooting should he deem there is a fire risk.
On Thursday, Dayton unveiled an amendment to her proposal that would require the state forester to obtain approval from the county sheriff in the area being proposed for a target shooting ban. The amendment goes further to state that the forester and the sheriff would review the ban every 14 days to determine if the ban should be ended.
"This is compromised language," Dayton explained.
Dayton pulled back her proposal on Friday, saying gun activist groups had contacted her with concerns that the bill was limiting their Second Amendment right. Dayton is a gun rights friendly legislator and a supporter of constitutional rights so she put the bill on hold to see if she could ease the concerns.
Dayton said the amendment is a work in progress. It has agreed upon language, but the amendment won't be made to her bill until it moves forward in the Senate, which likely won't happen in the near future. She noted that it was still early in the legislative session and there will be time for her bill to move through the Senate and the House before the Legislature adjourns in March.
State forester Dick Buehler joined Dayton in announcing the amendment. Buehler explained that if the bill passes, his department will create a website to help notify the public which areas are closed to target shooting and which are open. He reiterated that areas would only be closed if there was a risk that a fire could be started by the shooters.
Buehler said his agency would work closely with Bureau of Land Management officials and private property owners to ensure areas -- such as land west of Utah Lake -- are fully closed off to target shooting if a need arises so there is no confusion on where target shooting is allowed.
In addition to announcing her amendment Dayton criticized the federal government's management of the public lands as a reason fires in the state burned as badly as they did last summer. Dayton said the federal government had mismanaged the forest lands over which it has authority and that resulted in extra fuel for the flames to burn.
Dayton also announced another firefighting bill, which would give state firefighters the authority to use water located on private property to help fight a fire. During last summer's intense fire season some firefighters were denied access to streams and reservoirs to help fight fires because property owners were worried they wouldn't have enough water for their crops and animals.
Under Dayton's proposal land owners would either be reimbursed for the water or have the water restored to them if it is used to help fight a fire.
Fighting fires within the state last year cost taxpayers $16 million. More than half of the fires were human-caused, and 33 of the fires were started by target shooters, including the Dump Fire, which burned more than 5,000 acres outside of Saratoga Springs last June.