Lingering parched terrain and treacherous fire conditions have prompted bans on target shooting in scattered areas prone to wildfires an expansion of previous firearms limits.
The order from State Forester Dick Buehler, which took effect Wednesday, bars target shooting in nearly all of unincorporated Utah County, parts of Summit County and scattered slivers of Cache and Davis counties.
Earlier, Buehler had used his authority to prohibit steel-jacketed and steel-core ammunition, tracers and exploding targets. The new order forbids shooting in the areas where county officials requested bans because of fire danger.
It will be up to the counties to enforce the bans.
"It's kind of a controversial thing. It's difficult because there are very few places in the wilderness where people can shoot, barring going to a designated shooting facility, which isn't necessarily convenient or financially possible," said Lt. Yvette Rice, of the Utah County Sheriff's Office. "I think the state forester is really trying to avoid any further damage because of the extreme fire hazard, and we're concerned about it as well."
Other restrictions on aerial fireworks, smoking and campfires remain in place for nearly all of Utah. The state has added an interactive map at utahfireinfo.gov to help residents determine which activities are prohibited in their regions.
There have been 486 Utah fires so far this year. Of those, 426 were human-caused and 21 are believed to have been started by people shooting firearms.
"This isn't the case where someone was out camping and while someone was shooting guns, we said, 'Shooting was the cause,' " said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands. "These are directly related to the projectile of the gun or the powder of the gun or the target of the gun."
Steve Terry, president of the Salt Lake Practical Shooters Association, a group of competitive target shooters, conceded the restrictions probably are needed.
"It shouldn't be necessary, but unfortunately there are a lot of laws being put in place that are silly because if people had any common sense, there would be no need for them," Terry said.
"Does it cut into things I enjoy? Sure it does. … [But] things are so dry, it's hard not to start a fire."
He said the cheatgrass that grows across Utah rangeland ignites so easily and conditions are so dry that even a lead bullet striking a rock can kick off enough sparks to start a fire.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said his group is still researching to see what conditions are necessary for shooters to start a fire to determine if the bans are warranted.
Whatever the outcome of the tests, he said, he hopes to make the findings public.
"If it dispels some myths on either side, education is always better than ignorance," Aposhian said. "We're not going to stick our head in the sand and pretend it didn't happen."
Regardless of any restrictions, he said, his group encourages shooters to be careful and aware of their surroundings.
On the Web
O To see a map of the restrictions, go to utahfireinfo.gov.