Hunters walking

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Hunters gathered in Bozeman's Gallatin County Courthouse on Monday night to discuss some of the first designated outdoor public target shooting sites in the county.

Currently, guns can be freely used on Forest Service lands (with some firearm-prohibited areas).

One interagency group says they've been working on the logistics of creating safe shooting sites since May 2017. The group has representatives from the Forest Service, the Gallatin County Commission and Sheriff’s Office, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), and a Montana State congressperson.

The proposed sites would not take away gun owners' rights to shoot on forest land. It would simply concentrate the area where most people are shooting.

Monday was the first time the interagency group brought the idea to the public for comment. They introduced four potential sites across Gallatin County, with three on forest land and one on state land. All are close to being within 30 minutes of Bozeman.

Andrew Cavanaugh is a regular at an indoor shooting range near Bozeman, and went to Monday's meeting to learn more about the proposed projects.

If you're not from here, as Cavanaugh explains, "trying to find a safe spot within the guidelines of the law - and being safe - can be pretty hard to do. So, I think that this will help kind of map different safe locations for people to go to.”

On the other hand, some participants in Monday evening brought up concerns about lowered property values, noise, and impact on neighbors.

“I purchased a 285 acre property,” says Sally Hand, a neighbor to one of the proposed shooting sites, “for the purpose of establishing a trauma repair retreat center. To have shooting going on, particularly if I have veterans who are recovering from tragedies they’ve experienced in war, would be unbelievably difficult and invasive and counterproductive.”

Organizers say they cannot move forward in making these shooting sites a reality if volunteers don’t step up to develop and maintain the sites.

Monday’s forum was simply a discussion of the shooting sites, and no decision were made.

If you have a comment about the sites or want to volunteer your time, contact the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520 or Gallatin County at (406) 582-3008.

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