Wednesday Apr 01 2009
Unofficial Cape Horn shooting range officially closed
By: Gloria Beverage
It’s no longer a definite maybe. The Bureau of Land Management has started the process to permanently close down a target shooting range in the Cape Horn area. The range, which was set up by gun enthusiasts more than 30 years ago, was closed last summer after a wildfire burned up the hillside dangerously close to railroad tracks above the range. The cause of the fire is being attributed to an abandoned propane tank that had been used for target practice. No one is quite sure how or when the range was created. It was already on the property when the Bureau of Land Management acquired it nearly 20 years ago “It’s not something we sanctioned or approved,” said Jeff Horn, outdoor recreation planner for the bureau. “It’s something we inherited.” What the Bureau also inherited was a major headache, Horn continued. “Over the years we’ve hauled thousands and thousands of pounds of garbage out of there – TVs, computers, appliances,” he explained. “There’s been a lot of hazardous waste left behind by shooters.” The bureau has tried to offer some leeway to users. At one point, signs were posted advising target shooters to keep the property cleared or it would be closed down. “The signs were shot to pieces,” Horn added. One long-time resident living in the Cape Horn area has used the range for nearly 30 years. For the past eight months he has been trying to convince the bureau to keep the range open. He claims his suggestion to relocate the range – turning it so the targets face away from the hillside and the railroad tracks – was turned down. “Legally the BLM has to allow us to shoot on their property,” said Jeff, who prefers not to use his last name because he is a gun owner. “It’s legal to shoot down there.” He is also frustrated with the amount of trash dumped at the site and was prepared to spearhead a volunteer effort to clean up the site. “I offered out of my own pocket to pay for the Dumpster,” he said. However, the bureau is holding firm on its decision. They have started the administrative process for a permanent closure, Horn said. “The reason (for the closure) is quite clear,” he said. “It’s a health and safety issue.” While the bureau does not discourage shooting on public land, it has received requests from Union Pacific and Amtrak to ban target shooters from this particular site. Last year’s fire, Horn said, “exposed a major safety issue. The (UP) employees didn’t feel comfortable working there.” In fact, Union Pacific employees locked the gate on its portion of the property – blocking public access to the land — within days of last summer’s wildfire. Anyone caught using the property for target shooting could be cited and fined up to $1,000 or serve up to 12 months in jail, reported David Christy with the BLM Public Affairs Office. Closure of the Colfax range now means local gun enthusiasts, like Jeff, have to find other sites. Although there is a privately owned shooting range in Lincoln, Jeff said it costs $8 to $10 per person and is strictly controlled. He’s confident he will find another site for target practice on public land.