• The federal government is considering a measure to shrink the area where recreational target shooting is allowed within the Sonoran Desert National Monument
  • Critics claim open target shooting threatens natural and cultural resources

The Bureau of Land Management in Arizona

The federal government manages approximately 245 million surface acres of land across the United States. 12.1 million acres of that land is situated in Arizona.

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Oversight of this protected land in Arizona falls to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which protects areas throughout the state.

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Recreational Gun Shooting on BLM Land

Throughout Arizona, there are many open places where it's legal to practice recreational target shooting. According to the BLM website,

Recreational shooting is a long-standing and appropriate use of BLM-managed public lands, when conducted safely and responsibly and in compliance with applicable land use plans.

Recreational shooting is allowed in about 97% of Arizona's BLM-managed public lands. Recently, the agency looked at shrinking the available shooting area in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, allocated south of Phoenix across parts of Maricopa and Pinal counties.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument has three mountain ranges and three wilderness areas. The conservation area protects an array of plant and animal species, including the protected saguaro cactus.

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The area has a long history of human use. Native Americans and Spanish explorers have called this home, as well as sturdy homesteaders who settled in the desert southwest. Part of Arizona's legacy, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, crosses this area.

Pressure from Critics

Recently, critics of target shooting on the Sonoran Desert National Monument have pressured the agency to shrink the area where recreational shooting is allowed.

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AP News reports that opponents have asked the federal agency to reevaluate the area where this practice is allowed, saying recreational shooting:

  • Threatens cultural and natural resources the monument was designated to protect
  • Can damage objects such as saguaro cactus and Native American petroglyphs
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Shrinking Proposed Area for Recreational Shooting in the Arizona Monument

As it stands, the BLM allows target shooting on 435,700 acres within the area of the monument.

If the management plan is amended, it would potentially shrink the area to 5,295 acres, banning target shooting in the remaining 480,496 acres of the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

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