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