Forest Closures Planned and Executed

August 8, 2001

by Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America

An anonymous Associated Press story, produced and timed for release by federal bureaucrats running the Arizona Tonto National Forest, will appear in many of tomorrow's newspapers nationwide, announcing the closure of 80,000 acres of the forest to outdoor marksmanship. The areas to be closed, adjacent to the Phoenix metro area, have been in continuous use for decades, without incident, by citizens conducting traditional firearms practice.

Following a three-month intensive pacification drive, lead by recently appointed Tonto Supervisor Karl Siderits, in which area residents were repeatedly assured that no blanket actions were likely, the federal agents did what activists suspected had been planned from the outset -- the total restriction of marksmanship in the commonly used and easily accesible sites that people use to practice and gain proficiency with arms. The move goes into effect Monday, and is expected to be precedential for National Forests around the country, which have been following the developments closely.

Safety is cited by Siderits and others as their main concern, though no concrete examples of such a problem have been brought forward. Forest agents claim in the article, and have claimed publicly for months, to have witnessed hundreds of examples of criminal conduct with firearms on Forest Service land (e.g., shooting across roads, which is dangerous, stupid and strictly illegal). When asked about arrests, citations or any other disciplinary actions of the purported crimes, Siderits, PR Officer James Payne, and various rangers admit to knowing of none.

Although Tonto officials regularly claim they have insufficient law enforcement to do anything about the alleged violators they supposedly frequently witness, additional law enforcement people will be engaged, according to the report, to enforce the new land closures. In essence, the plan is to punish the innocent for alleged acts of unidentified guilty parties.

Unlike less free zones in America, where the right to bear arms is heavily repressed, outdoor marksmanship is routine in Arizona, with countless thousands of residents taking to open terrain on a regular basis. The National Forests are one of the main areas used, with some larger impromptu ranges in use since before WWII.

The Tonto Forest comprises 2.9 million acres of public land, and contrary to its name, is primarily unbroken expanses of open desert. In effect, the closures are expected to force marksmanship away from well known and well worn target areas that are easy to reach, to untouched pristine areas of desert further inland. One justification cited by officials is that they haven't closed anywhere near as much public land as federal agents in California have. Dirt bikers, ATVs and all other land users, including hunters, will still have access to the restricted areas.

Unmentioned by the anonymous AP "writer" is the fact that 54 dead bodies were removed from Tonto National Forest last year -- a typical count for a year -- none of them related to outdoor marksmanship or recreational shooters in the forest. Also unmentioned are marksmanship education programs for the public and the state's school systems, and establishment of ranges, which were prominent issues during the long running public comment and town-hall style amelioration campaign.

Details on the amelioration campaign, a joint statement by sportsmen in Arizona and the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association concerning the planned (now implemented) closures, and direct contact information for the responsible federal bureaucrats, press the New Stuff button on our website.

Alan Korwin
Bloomfield Press
"We publish the gun laws."
4848 E. Cactus, #505-440
Scottsdale, AZ 85254


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