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Utah bill would allow restrictions on target shooting to prevent wildfires

Wildfire » Bill would provide authority for state forester to ban target shooting in high-hazard areas.

First Published Jan 29 2013 07:39 pm • Last Updated Jan 30 2013 07:57 am

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.

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"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.

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