INLAND GUN RANGE -- Jim Matthews column 25feb04
Historic range's BLM lease is up for renewal
Outdoor News Service
The Inland Fish and Game Conservation Association shooting range, one of Southern California's oldest shooting ranges, will have its 20-year lease expire this year. The public range has been on this same piece of ground since just after World War II.
The group is asking the Bureau of Land Management to renew its 40-acre lease on Orange Street north of Redlands in the Santa Ana River wash for another 20 years, and the agency has scheduled an open house to gather public comments for a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) it will prepare for the proposed extension. The open house will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Elks Lodge at 2055 Elks Drive in San Bernardino.
For those of us who've grown up in the Inland Empire, this range has been a centerpiece for the hunting and shooting community. It is where I completed the shooting portion of my hunter safety class four decades ago, and I have shot off its benches at the rifle and pistol range and broken clay targets at its trap and skeet ranges ever since. In my teens, the rangemaster, Ray Morgan, was my reloading and shooting mentor. A decade later Jerry and Jo Barlett taught me the finer points of handgun silhouette shooting when the sport was first exploding in popularity. Each year, I make it a point to go a weekend or two before deer season so I can just talk with hunters who show up to check the zero on their rifles. I shoot often enough that I've been a member for the past several years (just one of over 1,500 members), but it is a public range and anyone can use the facilities for a small fee. It would be hard to find an Inland Empire hunter or shooter who has not used this facility.
So is there a concern that the lease might not be renewed and this historic range closed? Well, there shouldn't be. However, John Kalish with the BLM said his agency has had some phone calls in recent years from new residents in housing tracts that have sprung up north of the range. They are concerned about noise from the shotgun range on Wednesday evenings, and some have worried about the safety of the rifle range.
Kalish also said the club has never been out of compliance in the 20 years it has operated under the current lease. Its members have gone out of their way to accommodate concerns of the new residents, knocking off the Wednesday shotgun matches an hour or more earlier than they extended in the past. The club asked the BLM to evaluate the environmental impacts of raising the berm behind the shotgun range to reduce noise. The nearest housing is more than 1/2 mile away, and nothing is likely to be built closer because of land-use restrictions, making the housing well beyond where a bullet ricochet could travel.
No real reason exist to close the range. More importantly, this is a community facility that serves a vast community. There are no ranges so close or so easily accessed as Inland. Like a lot of other shooters in this region, I'll be stopping by the open house next Tuesday just to let the BLM staff how important this facility is and has been to me. I suspect I'll meet a lot of other people who've had a similar history with this range.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a brave and scarce man, hated and scorned. When the cause succeeds, however, the timid join him... for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain
Not to sound like another dooms day preacher, but you better watch out if the environmental 'experts' get involved. They got our range at the Kennedy Space Center closed claiming is was a lead contamination site. The Govt has to clean the place up now to the tune of $1 to 2 million and at least over a two year time frame.
What happened was they were getting ready to do a controlled burn in the area and while flying over in advance they noticed a big difference in the vegetation down range from the shotgun ranges and went in to investigate. Walla! all of the lead shot dropping there for the past 15 - 20 years started killing some of the trees etc.
Keep your fingers crossed as it can only get worse!