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Utah bill would allow restrictions on target shooting to prevent wildfires

Published January 30, 2013 7:12 am

Wildfire • Bill would provide authority for state forester to ban target shooting in high-hazard areas.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

SB120 • A bill giving more authority to the state forester to restrict target shooting because of high fire hazard swept through a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Target Shooting and Wildfire Regulations bill — SB120 — allows the state forester to call for a ban on target shooting in places where hazardous conditions exist. The legislation adds language to a current Forestry, Fire, and State Lands law outlining the power of the state forester to close access to the public in dangerous situations.

"The bill puts into statute what has been going on traditionally," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem.

The bill passed with unanimous approval through the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee after vocal support from other parties.

Sterling Brown, of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation said the organization "stands behind the bill because it gives greater protections to private land owners." Brown said much of the private property that was burned in wildfires last year was adjacent to state or federal land.

Law enforcement agencies around the state were also on board with the tweak to current law to aid in curbing wildfires caused by target shooting, said Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds.

Later in the 2012 fire season, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered the state forester to work with counties to decide whether to limit target shooting.

State law prohibits any regulation of firearms. By July of last year about 20 wildfires had been started by target shooters.

The Dump Fire, started by two target shooters, ignited June 21 in dry grass near a landfill in Saragota Springs. It burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight. On Tuesday, a Payson man was charged in federal court with starting a wildfire last fall after using tracer ammunition rounds.

In all, more than $50 million was spent fighting wildfires last year in Utah.

cimaron@sltrib.com