By Sean Harding
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — A bill intended to enhance the safety of hikers, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts would establish designated target shooting areas on some state Department of Natural Resources-managed lands.
Senate Bill 5099 was introduced last Tuesday by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.
“Target shooting is not getting the same recognition as other forms of recreation,” Sheldon said in a telephone interview.
Because of a lack of designated target shooting areas, there is concern that shooting activities might interfere with other recreational activities, such as hiking and camping.
Although recreational shooting is legal on DNR-managed lands as long as recreators follow guidelines established in Washington Administrative Code, the department has temporarily banned it previously because of wildfire risks.
DNR crews respond to an average of 22 wildfires caused by shootings annually, department officials say.
If passed into law, the bill would require the agency to establish target shooting areas in Mason and Skagit counties by the end of 2019.
The department will also work with “interested stakeholders” to develop additional target shooting areas on department-managed lands.
The measure does not affect state parks.
Herb Gerhardt, a 20-plus year DNR volunteer from Belfair, said many trails on DNR-managed lands are not marked on maps.
Sometimes shooters will find areas of convenience, pulling off the side of the road and shooting into the woods.
“They don’t realize that there’s trail between where they are, and where they’re at,” Gerhardt said.
Not all sportsmen may see it that way, especially if the measure is expanded to Eastern Washington.
Ray Clark, owner of Clark’s All Sports in Colville, said shooters won’t like being boxed in.
“It might be fine on the coast, but we’d be totally against it here,” Clark said. “We have a lot of open ground with a smaller population east of the Cascades.
“It’s just another restriction being put on recreational shooters.”
Although there have been issues with some shooters leaving ammunition casings in the woods, Sheldon pointed out that many target shooters are “good sportsmen.”
Many are members of the military from Bremerton who shoot and do haul out their casings.
Sheldon hopes that introducing the legislation will bring the issue to the attention of Natural Resources officials.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.