Many who shoot on public lands are unsafe and litter

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — People who drag their trash onto public lands in San Juan County for target shooting can endanger people's lives and they end up destroying natural landscapes, officials say.

"Our main concern is a stray bullet," said Victoria Barr, district manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Farmington field office.

Popular shooting areas include Piñon Mesa and Glade Run recreation area, both northwest of Farmington, where some people leave behind what officials call "trigger trash." And shooting in both the areas is banned, Barr said.

Piñon Mesa encompasses more than 8,300 acres of public land, and the Glade includes approximately 18,000 acres, BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Doug McKim said.

In the past 15 or 20 years, more people have begun exploring public lands, walking dogs, for example, or mountain biking and shooting, she said. And that can cause more conflicts between the user groups, she said.

If residents see people firing guns unsafely in areas where it is illegal, they should call the authorities, she said.

Her office once received a report of a stray bullet striking an oil field truck, she said.

"There's kind of a culture here that needs to change," said Allen Elmore, a Farmington four-wheeling enthusiast who volunteers his time cleaning up public land.

Elmore, an avid gun user who said he could be described as a "gun nut," said many shooters don't clean up afterwards, and it's become the culture in the county. "We have to worry about articles in The Daily Times about trigger trash because these idiots leave it out there," he said.

But if shooters saw less trash in the desert, he thinks they'd be less likely to litter. He organized a clean up on Piñon Mesa several months ago. McKim said crews filled a 30-yard trash container in about an hour.

McKim said the BLM and the county are hosting another day to clean the Glade and Aztec Run on Sept. 26. Volunteers will maintain and mark trails as well as pick up trash, he said.

People who want to volunteer can call 505-564-7600.

"Our main concern is the safety of people, and the Glade is definitely a popular recreation area," Barr said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.