Thursday, May 31, 2012

NC Wildlife Resouces Commission Backs More Public Ranges

Gordon Myers, Executive Director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, testified last week before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. They were holding hearings on HR 3065 - the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. Mr. Myers was testifying in favor of the bill on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

From the release put out by the NCWRC:
H.R. 3065, named “Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act,” promotes construction and maintenance of public shooting ranges. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) as a companion bill to a similar piece of legislation introduced in the Senate.

HR 3065 provides incentives for states to develop much-needed shooting ranges on federal and nonfederal lands by increasing the amount each state could spend of its Pittman-Robertson grant funds on shooting ranges. Because these funds are allocated to states on a formula basis, changing the reimbursement rate would not result in increased federal spending.

Further, this bill does not require a state to use the money on ranges. Instead, it provides incentives. All of these incentives would enhance the ability of states to build and maintain shooting ranges. Based on Fiscal Year 2011 apportionments, North Carolina would be eligible to allocate an additional $700K of its apportioned funds to build or upgrade shooting ranges in our state.

“It seems fitting that this legislation is being considered as wildlife agencies, industries, and conservation groups have come together this year to mark a hallmark partnership that has led to 75 years of quality hunting, shooting, and wildlife-related recreation,” Myers said. “The Pittman-Robertson Act is the cornerstone and the life blood of one of the most significant and successful partnership approaches to fish and wildlife conservation in our nation’s history.

“More and more governmental lands are being closed, and fewer and fewer outdoor ranges are being built. The effects of this pattern are amplified by increased urbanization. It is simply harder and harder to find a place to shoot.”

Myers explained the need to address emerging patterns that hinder successful implementation of this conservation model. The shortage of shooting ranges is detrimental to the future of recreational shooting. It is jeopardizing the ability to practice the safe handling of firearms, and it is diminishing opportunities to participate in our nation’s longstanding user-pay, public-benefit conservation model.

“In North Carolina, one of the principle impediments to shooting range development is the initial capital cost attributed to land acquisition, facility design and construction,” Myers said. “H.R. 3065 includes a combination of key incentives that significantly reduce these barriers.

“Shooting sports are a part of our heritage. Further, recreational shooting is growing in numbers. To accommodate this growth, as well as to ensure that hunters continue have places to shoot and practice firearms safety, and that ranges are available to train law enforcement and members of our military, we need to provide and maintain the infrastructure necessary to support these activities.”
Currently the Wildlife Resources Commission has only one range. This is located at the Cold Mountain Game Land in Haywood County. This is the same Cold Mountain featured in the book and movie of the same name. Given that the range is a 15-20 minute drive from my house I am one of the lucky ones. It is a nice range and it is free. The only downside is that you can't shoot on Sundays.

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