Expanded Interim Shooting Restriction Goes into Effect in Hyalite Drainage on April 20th

Friday Apr. 1st, 2016

The Custer Gallatin National Forest will implement an expanded interim target shooting restriction in Hyalite Canyon to address public safety issues and resource management concerns on April 20, 2016. The restriction will remain in place year-long and includes all of Hyalite drainage south of Bozeman, Montana (roughly 34,000 acres), but will not affect hunting.  

The Hyalite drainage receives more than 40,000 visitors monthly in the summer and over 20,000 visitors monthly in the winter. It is the most heavily recreated drainage on National Forest System lands in the state of Montana. Within the closure area there are 475 developed recreation sites, 185 dispersed camping sites, about 70 miles of trail and 65 miles of roads. The narrow geography of this glaciated valley, the density of roads, trails and developed and undeveloped sites, and the volume of people who recreate here make it unsafe to target shoot. The expanded interim order replaces the existing shooting restriction put in place in 2013 (no target shooting on either side of Hyalite road).

Every year, more acres of trees are shot down and thousands of pounds of trash are removed from the area. The amount of trash, resource damage and property damage left behind by target shooters is inappropriate and inconsistent with National Forest management.  

Target shooting is an appropriate use of public land in areas where it can be enjoyed safely. The extreme density of people and infrastructure including campgrounds, picnic areas, dispersed recreation sites, rental cabins, roads, and trails results in the drainage not being a safe target shooting location. The shooting restriction does not affect people’s ability to carry or possess a firearm.

The Forest intends to launch a public process later this summer to provide opportunity for people to have input and continue looking for solutions that address the safety and resource concerns. The interim order will help address immediate public safety and resource management concerns until a public process and further analysis is complete.  

The highest priority for National Forest management is always human health and safety. Given the increasing number of reports from people feeling their safety is at risk because they have been inadvertently shot toward coupled with the increasing amount of resource damage closing the drainage to target shooting while a public input process takes place is critical. “No one wants to inadvertently injure someone else while enjoying an afternoon of target shooting, and the density of roads and trails and the number of people in the drainage at any given moment make it nearly impossible to safely shoot,” said Marna Daley, Custer Gallatin National Forest Public Affairs Officer.

Target shooting is defined as any shooting other than in pursuit of game and includes paint ball guns. This closure does not limit your ability to carry or possess a legal firearm. The expanded interim target shooting restriction will affect roughly 34,000 acres leaving over 3 million acres of the Custer Gallatin Forest still available for shooting enthusiasts.  

“The gate at the mouth of Hyalite Canyon closes to motorized vehicles on April 1 – May 15 annually for road breakup during the spring thaw,” said Daley. “When the road re-opens on May 16th, crews will have begun cleaning and restoration efforts on the existing target shooting sites and installed signs and information about the shooting restriction.”  

While the potential for hunter shooting safety concerns does exist, hunting is still allowed because hunters tend to utilize different areas than where the concentrated use is occurring and shooting while hunting is quite different than target shooting (usually there are considerably fewer shots taken in pursuit of game).

The Forest Service has searched for years for a safe and appropriate area for target shooting but has yet to find a suitable location and a partner willing to cooperate in making a more formal and well maintained shooting site available. This will likely be a component of the public input process. The interim restriction does not preclude future planning of this sort in Hyalite drainage or other areas of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. “We continue researching ideas and talking with partners, other agencies and stakeholders to identify options for providing safe target shooting opportunities,” said Daley. “The public process, likely a National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA process, will help identify additional ideas and the environmental effects associated.”   

If you are headed out to enjoy an afternoon of target shooting here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind:

Safety first: 
Always maintain a safe line of fire. Shoot towards a high, dirt backstop. Never shoot towards other people, vehicles, structures, roads, trails or livestock. Respect private property and posted signs.
Fire:  Target shooting can cause fires under certain conditions. Don’t shoot near rocks or dry vegetation. Avoid shooting on hot, windy days. Do not shoot at metal objects. Be prepared; keep a shovel, fire extinguisher, and extra water on hand.

Use paper, cardboard, or clay targets only. Use and/or possession of any kind of exploding targets or explosive devices is prohibited on public lands. Don’t shoot at glass, metals, plastics, home appliances, electronic components, or furniture.

Stop Trigger Trash:  
Shoot over a tarp for easy cleanup of spent cartridges and shells. Remove all targets, trash and debris after shooting. Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.   c

For additional information please contact the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520 or the Custer Gallatin Supervisor’s Officer at (406) 587-6701.