Snoqualmie man seeks 1-90 shooting spots

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A local gun-rights advocate is looking for areas where target shooters can safely shoot following the closure of national forest land along Interstate 90 between North Bend and Snoqualmie Pass.

The 7,000 acres, which include the Tinkham and Denny Creek roads, were closed for one year -- and possibly permanently — after several near misses with other users and unsafe practices by some shooters.

“We have a lot of concentrated use in this area, and unfortunately we had enough people put in unsafe situations” to warrant the closure, said Snoqualmie District Ranger Jim Franzel, who made the decision. “It’s simply too congested to be shooting safely.”

Many of the nearly 5 million people who visit the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest each year use the easy-to-access trails off I-90, he said.

U.S. Forest Service rangers in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest posted signs warning shooters to move to more remote areas in the 1 million-acre forest on Thursday, July 2, when the ban took effect.

Licensed hunters will not be affected.

According to Franzel, anyone found target shooting in the closed area could receive a $275 ticket. Anyone caught shooting unsafely could be fined up to $5,000 and face up to six months in jail.

Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Week magazine, hopes a “happy medium” can be found. The Snoqualmie resident is looking for areas where target shooters can practice their hobby without endangering anyone.

In several areas, people were shooting along or toward I-90, public roads and trails without a backstop, which is illegal, according to Franzel.

Target shooting is permitted in national forests, but must be 150 yards from any residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area.

Franzel will assess the closure this fall to decide if the ban will be temporary or permanent. A permanent ban could include other high use areas, he said.

Workman will submit a list of any possible safe shooting sites he finds to Franzel for consideration in the closure’s assessment. Franzel said he doesn’t think there is much potential for any safe sites.

Workman is looking for places off Tinkham Road where people can shoot away from the roadway into a backstop.

There are irresponsible shooters along the I-90 corridor, he said.

“These people aren’t shooters, they’re vandals.”

But most target shooters are responsible, he added.

“He’s displaced a lot of people who are now going to be looking for a new place to shoot,” possibly including along the crowded Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, Workman said.

“There aren’t any safe ‘replacement’ shooting areas in the Middle Fork,” conservation activist Mark Boyar said.

A rock pit that used to be a popular shooting spot is now a campground following the Middle Fork’s clean up, which Boyar was involved with.

Just a few years ago, the area was a haven for illegal shooting, dumping and drug activity, and he can recall several times when he heard bullets zip by or hit trees a few feet away.

Shooting can coexist with other uses, but it must be managed, like other uses, he said. The Forest Service needs a way to identify appropriate areas for legal shooting, just as it determines which uses, such as hiking or horse riding, can use which trails, Boyar said.

“Any kind of recreation, you have to manage it now. There’s too many people around today to just go and do it. Those days are long gone,” he said.

While places can be found for responsible shooters, law enforcement efforts against irresponsible shooters also need to be increased, Boyar said.

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