Forest Service wants safe, responsible shooting in Hunter Canyon
HEREFORD — Question: How can Hunter Canyon’s recreational use be protected?
Answer: By all users agreeing how to do it.
While the question and answer may be simple, the reality is a little more difficult.
Coronado National Forest Sierra Vista District Ranger Mark Ruggiero is pondering the questions while looking for solutions.
Saturday, he and other people gathered in the canyon as part of a cleanup day where they also discussed how to, in Ruggiero’s words “promote Hunter Canyon’s benefits to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, horseback riders and target shooters.”
As the district ranger, he can direct the decisions, but Ruggiero said he wants the citizens, the users, to come together in deciding how the canyon is used to satisfy the recreational public’s desires.
A possible answer is the establishment of a Collaborative Alternatives Team, like one being headed by Ted Mouras, who likes to do a number of things in the canyon, to include being a responsible shooter.
But a major issue is that recreational shooting in Hunter has gotten out of control, Mouras said. “It has raised concerns about public safety and has resulted in damage to national forest lands.”
However, it doesn’t mean disallowing shooting activities is the solution. Instead, they need to find a way to do it safely so others can enjoy the type of recreational activities they pursue, Mouras said.
Ruggiero said he hopes the formation of CAT will bring a number of people together to find ways where all activities can be accomplished.
Noting an invitation to the National Rifle Association will be made, the district ranger said their input is needed to ensure recreational shooters know they have responsibilities to both themselves and other users.
Joining the Saturday effort were members of the Friends of the Huachuca Mountains and the Huachuca Gould’s Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation.
Lou Kuttner, president of the Friends of the Huachuca Mountains said there are ways for all kinds of users to take part in the beauty of Hunter Canyon, which is returning back to its former splendor after the 2011 Monument Fire.
Ruggiero said he is trying to establish logical rules for use in Hunter, as well as Ash Canyon, both of which have multiple recreaional uses, including recreational shooting.
Because the Monument Fire led to the creation of additional small roadways, for the firefighting equipment used in 2011, he said the U.S. Forest Service will be eliminating those areas, now used by drivers, to return the canyons to a more original state.
“The Forest Service supports multiple use,” Ruggiero said.
After a short discussion, around 20 people headed up to the area where recreational shooters generally go.
One of the volunteers, Carole Frumenti, was on her knees near a tree, picking up brass casings.
She said she opposes recreational shooting and continues to be upset by shooters who will not clean up after themselves.
Frumenti can hear a lot of shooting from where she lives, it’s just “horrible, horrible, day after day, and they don’t clean up the area.”
Mouras said the establishment of the CAT will allow the Forest Service and the community “to find ways to manage local national forest lands for all users.”
CAT will develop recommendations, and representatives from a wide range of interested parties will be invited to participate, he said.
Information about meetings will be made available once CAT is more firmly established, Mouras said.
Ruggiero said, “We don’t intend to shut recreational shooting down.”
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