On one of his recent shifts, Shane Nalen, supervisory ranger at the Bureau of Land Management Southern Nevada District, ran into a man who was shooting up a TV at the shooting range off Bell Vista Avenue.
“I watched him get out with a 12-gauge shotgun and blow this 18-inch TV to bits,” Nalen said. “And so, when I rolled up and contacted the gentleman, I noticed that in the back of his truck he had a garbage can, some shovels.”
The man intended to clean up the remains of the TV, but he still received a citation as part of his learning process.
Over the course of his nine-month tenure, Nalen said he has also seen people shoot at things like microwaves or refrigerators. Shooting up a TV involves hazardous materials, he said.
“The costs are astronomical when it comes to having an actual Hazmat company come in and clean the area. And it’s not just that. It’s motor oil and gasoline, any kind of fuel product that’s out there,” he said.
Nalen was one of the speakers at the recent meeting that was put on by the BLM’s Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council where officials discussed how to educate Nevada residents about shooting on public lands.
Target shooting has been somewhat of an issue that has popped up particularly on the Las Vegas side as the population has increased, Nalen said.
“We had more and more incidents regarding safety in terms of people not being responsible and causing injuries (to) others. We’ve also had some issues with wildland fires, and quite a few of those have popped up on the Spring Mountain range as a result of target shooting,” he said.
“I think there’s a direct correlation with population size and the related issues that come about from the amount of people that go out and recreate and target shoot on public lands,” he said.
Pahrump Valley has about a dozen established target shooting areas that are located on BLM land. Galen said the Bell Vista Avenue shooting range is where most of the issues occur.
“If I were to sit out there for eight or 10 hours, there would be plenty of violations that I would see. Probably safety violations, people shooting glass bottles, people shooting up refrigerators, microwaves, et cetera,” he said.
Nalen noted that “90 to 95 percent” of the shooting in Pahrump Valley is “really responsible.”
“They do the right thing. But like in most of law enforcement situations, it’s that other say two percent that cause problems for everybody else,” he said.
One of the major concerns that were brought up by officials at the meeting was littering and junk that’s left as a result of using informal target shooting instead of paper targets.
John Hiatt, who represents environmental organizations on the Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council, said people who use a shooting range are not the same people who shoot up bottles and TVs.
“I think that while it may very much be a worthwhile effort to set up a legal public shooting range that’s regulated and does everything right, we really still need to solve the problem of random recreational shooting on public lands, which are leaving a residue of lead, mercury, all of these other things which will be there forever,” he said.
Hiatt said a “concentrated, a consorted media campaign” is essential to address the problem of inappropriate shooting on public lands.
“So, these are serious issues that need to be addressed and I think that it needs to be addressed as a littering issue where people put the trash out, they can be ticketed for that. And with a strong education campaign and a media campaign, let the public know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” Hiatt said.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Nalen said. “I think that’s where we have to start and that’s like one of the elements of law enforcement is that education piece. It’s a huge part of it.”
Nalen said it’s important to encourage the public in volunteer cleanup efforts on public lands.
“I think at the end of the day, what it comes down to is personal responsibility,” he said. “Each target shooter that goes out and enjoys our public lands, it’s important that they take personal responsibility for their actions and what they do.”
Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77