A long-awaited shooting closure on more than 2,000 acres of public land on the west side of Utah Lake is now in effect after a several-year process.
A temporary 900-acre shooting ban in the Lake Mountain area was first established in 2012, and has been extended multiple times through the end of 2018. But concerns including shooters destroying Native American petroglyphs in the area, starting fires and shooting toward homes and highways caused officials to support more than doubling the temporary shooting closure and making it permanent.
An interim rule is now in place as of Thursday, closing the 2,004 acres of BLM and SITLA land to target shooting to improve public safety and conserve Native American petroglyphs while continuing to provide for target shooting opportunities on nearby public lands, according to a press release from the BLM.
“In addition, the area is not considered safe for target shooting due to the lack of proper backstops in lower elevations, nearby homes, and its proximity to State Highway 68. Public outreach and education efforts to address these problems have not been successful,” the rule on the Federal Register’s website says.
More than 97 percent of BLM’s acreage under the Salt Lake Field office remains open to target shooting, the release said.
Local officials had signed off on the 2,000 acre closure years ago, and Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee said in the press release that Utah County prioritizes public safety and recognizes the value of cultural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
“The new Rule allows us to plan for the future of Utah County developments while maintaining opportunities across the Lake Mountains for recreating, including target shooting,” Lee said.
Congresswoman Mia Love was also quoted in the release as saying she has always supported locally-driven efforts addressing public safety, preservation of cultural resources and providing recreational opportunity on public lands.
“My office became involved in this process to ensure that everyone’s voice was heard and taken into consideration for the best solution,” Love said in the release. “I feel the Utah stakeholders did a good job of balancing all those concerns.”
The closure will continue to be open for hunting during the legally established hunting seasons and will be open for other uses like hiking, biking, motorized vehicle use and sightseeing.
In anticipation of the shooting closure, Utah County started building a shooting range close by the area just of Soldier Pass Road, as a place for shooters displaced by the ban.
One hundred sixty acres of land were deeded to Utah County from the BLM for that purpose in 2016, and several of the shorter ranges are now open for shooting.
People can send comments on the interim rule through Nov. 5 by emailing email@example.com with the subject “Interim Final Supplementary Rule.”
If any substantive comments are received in response to the notice, the BLM will determine whether or not to modify the rule. If no substantive comments are received, the interim rule will become final without another published notice, according to the Federal Register website.
The decision was lauded in the press release by BLM and SITLA management.
“This decision represents how collaborative planning at the federal, state, and county level can improve public and trust lands management, SITLA Deputy Director Kim Christy said in the release. “This partnership will help provide a consistent and effective management strategy for mixed ownership of BLM-managed lands and State Trust lands in an important urban interface area.”
BLM Utah State Director Edwin Roberson said the BLM is committed to providing a high level of public safety for visitors and communities neighboring the Eastern Lake Mountains.
“Involving our partners and stakeholders in the planning process balances the need for public health and safety while recognizing the multiple uses of the landscape, including hunting and preservation of American Indian cultural sites,” Roberson said in the release.