There is an ongoing dispute between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the NRA (yes, the National Rifle Association). Both before and after guns were allowed in our national parks, people loved to go out into the desert to our “Monuments” and mess around with those guns. Sometimes, a completely innocent cactus or tree would get targeted instead of the soda cans the shooters brought with them. Rangers would find the corpses of once majestic Saguaros (which are supposed to be the state plant and protected) lying on the ground riddled with holes, their arms shot off laying nearby.
Another major problem with target shooting in the parks are those soda cans and all kinds of other trash gets dragged out to the desert, shot to bits and then left there. Rangers have found computer monitors, propane tanks, automobiles, washers, sheet metal, plywood, etc, etc, etc. The BLM reported that in one month period in 2008, they removed 6 tons of debris from target shooting areas. 6 frigging tons!!!!
The BLM sought to have target shooting banned in the parks and, of course, the NRA did it’s usual knee-jerk reaction and objected. From a pro-hunting website, I found this post:
…another threat to our freedoms; the BLM is proposing the closure of 128,000 acres of public land to shooters because they claim shooting is a “resource-harming” activity. The BLM proposal appears to tie in very well with anti-gun and anti-hunting agendas.
Paranoid much? Seriously though, I don’t understand why the NRA thinks that 6 tons of trash (some of which contain hazardous chemicals) in an ecosystem that is one of the most fragile* in the world and the destruction of a plant that only grows in one place in the world** aren’t “resource harming”. I would say leaving metals, fuels, mechanical fluids, etc to seep into the soil and shooting up 100 year old cacti is pretty damn harming.
How did Arizona representatives respond to the situation? Did they take the reasonable course, some sort of compromise? Did they try to protect this unique ecosystem that draws millions of tourists every year to the state? Did they try to protect the Saguaro, now a symbol for Arizona, virtually synonymous with the state? No, they side with the NRA and attempt to strip the BLM’s right to ban target shooting not only in Arizona but also in all 16 of the National Monuments. Arizona’s own Jeff Flake proposed House Resolution 3440 to take away their right to ban target shooting AND only allow them the ability to ban in “emergency situations” and then only for 6 months. Wow, 6 months?! That’ll really help the plants that take 75 years to grow it’s first arm.
This Bill is an extreme overreaction to the problem. The BLM has a policy of allowing it in some Monuments but not in others and that decision has been made after having seen the effects on the various ecosystems throughout the 16 “parks”. They’re not saying ban it everywhere, they’re saying, ban it in the Sonoran Monument but allow it in others where it has less impact. That’s not an unreasonable position.
I’ve harped on this before, why can’t we have reasonable discussions about gun control?! Efforts such as this specific ban isn’t some vast conspiracy to take away your guns. It’s a perfectly legitimate and rational reason for banning target shooting in particular locales. Yet once again the extreme wing of the GOP is in the driver’s seat and everyone in the middle aren’t even in the car.
*To be precise when I say fragile in terms of an ecosystem, I mean that the length of time it takes for plants to regenerate after destruction is very, very long.
**The Saguaro grows only in the Sonoran Desert from seeds and will not grow from cuttings. It takes up to 75 years to grow one arm……Yet people are destroying some with multiple arms.