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Evidence of illegal recreational shooting near camping grounds along Gold Camp Road in the Pike National Forest.

My brother, father, uncles and cousins were all deer hunters back in Wisconsin. I learned to shoot a .22 when I was 12 and enjoyed target shooting using soup cans at my grandparents’ farm.

Guns are a tool and have a purpose.

I am also an avid hiker and love to lose myself above Palmer Lake on U.S. Forest Service property. I wish I’d kept track of the number of times I’ve heard gunfire that sounded alarmingly close.

Others have said the same.

Do we have many examples of people being shot mistakenly in Pike National Forest? No, but it has happened.

Do we have evidence of people using trees for target practice and leaving shells and spent shells in our lovely forest? Plenty of it.

Let’s start from a place of agreement: One of the many things we love about this region is our proximity to the wilderness. You can leave downtown and be in Pike National Forest in less than 10 minutes. Few cities are as lucky.

Such proximity means residents and visitors frequently use the forest for hiking, biking, horseback riding and target practice. Three of those four user groups can interact most of the time conflict-free. One does not fit well with the others.

When you consider the range of modern rifles, you can understand the concern. A friend recently told me of harvesting a pronghorn at 396 yards — that’s nearly four football fields placed end to end.

After a prolonged period of “listening,” Pike National Forest staff has a proposal to consider. This proposal does not ban shooting in the forest. It does, however, designate certain areas off-limits for shooting such as neighborhoods, trailheads and campgrounds. And it would create appropriate places for target shooting to be allowed where trees aren’t destroyed and people aren’t endangered. There would be expectations for people to clean up after themselves.

Forest staff has created an excellent “storyboard” that explains the problems and discusses solutions. You can access it at https://tinyurl.com/y6bxpt4p and have until Feb. 22 to participate in the conversation before a decision is made.

The national forests were set aside for all to access and enjoy safely. Fear of stray bullets, even if highly unlikely, should not be a concern.

Davies is executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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