The Pueblo West View

Forest service bans exploding targets

Exploding targets
Exploding targets

DENVER — The U.S. Forest Service on Monday barred shooters from using exploding targets, which have caused wildfires, in all national forests and grasslands in five states, including Colorado.

The targets, sold on the Internet and in firearms stores and sporting goods stores, are made of chemicals in a small jar which explode and often create a fireball when hit by a bullet, forest service officials said.

Exploding targets caused three wildfires in Colorado in 2012 and 2013 that cost $2.7 million to suppress and 16 wildfires in eight Western states that cost $33 million to suppress, they said. One was the Springer Fire that burned 1,200 acres last year near Lake George in Park County.

“We have seen a significant increase in the use of exploding targets on national forest land” in the service’s Rocky Mountain Region, said Laura Mark, top law enforcement officer for the five-state region.

A Bureau of Land Management official said BLM also plans to ban exploding targets on BLM land.

Regular target shooting and hunting are not affected by the order, signed Monday by Regional Forester Dan Jiron, in charge of the region’s national forests and grasslands. Fireworks already are prohibited in those areas, Jiron said.

John Walsh, U.S. attorney for Colorado, said a motivation for using exploding targets seems to be that “they give off a pretty gratifying bang.”

The penalty for using exploding targets is a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment of six months or less.

The officials said they hope shooters will comply voluntarily. “You don’t want to have on your conscience starting a large forest fire,” Walsh said.

The ban in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota is the first by the forest service in the Western United States, Jiron said. In addition to fires caused by the targets, bomb squads had to respond on three instances this year to safely dispose of the targets that were left unexploded, Mark said.

“We owe our firefighters and public our best efforts when it comes to their safety,” Jiron said. “It doesn’t take much to start a fire today.”

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