This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Bureau of Land Management has transfered a 160-acre parcel in the Lake Mountains to Utah County to be developed into a public shooting range in hopes of containing the target shooting that has been trashing public lands west of Utah Lake.

Thousands of people visit the area every year to hone their shooting skills, but shooters' trash in the form of obliterated targets — like toilets, televisions, appliances, even paint cans — and other resource damage have pushed state and federal land managers to close some lands to shooting and develop a plan to manage target shooting. Gunfire has torn apart trees and signs, marred American Indian rock art, struck a nearby residence, ignited wildfires and splattered paint on rocks.

A public range, where people can shoot in a managed environment, is just one of several proposals to address shooting-related conflicts. But the BLM is barred by policy from operating shooting ranges, so the agency is giving the land near the Soldier Pass Road, off State Route 68, to the county under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act.

"The county plan to provide a safe, organized target shooting range in the Lake Mountains area is a great step forward," said Kevin Oliver, BLM's West Desert District manager, in a prepared statement. "We will continue to work closely with Utah County and the public as we manage the public lands in the Lake Mountains."

Construction on the range is expected to begin this spring and should be ready for use within a year, according to Utah County Commission Chairman Larry Ellertson.

"We have appreciated the cooperation in working with BLM to see this come to fruition and are excited for the opportunity to create a facility which will benefit our citizens," Ellertson said.

The county lacks the authority to ban shooting except in emergency situations, so the idea of a dedicated range surfaced a few years ago as a way to encourage shooting in a centralized place.

"People know they can go there and have some improved shooting range, places for targets. Our hope is to have shooting benches and rests they can shoot from, with canopies and so forth," Ellertson said. The range would be managed in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource and there would be no fee for using it. The county intends to solicit ideas from the public before commencing construction, slated for a groundbreaking ceremony May 9.

Meanwhile, an environmental assessment is underway to develop a plan for managing target shooting on 9,000 acres of public land north of the future shooting range. This plan, which could impose strict limits on shooting, is expected by to be finalized by the end of the year. Hunting would not be affected.

"The general feeling is we want to leave it as open as we can. They heard that loud and clear, but my own feeling is, if it is to be open, we want to educate people as to what they should and shouldn't do relative to their shooting. They need to respect the rock art there. They shouldn't be littering," Ellertson said.

For the 160-acre Soldier Pass Public Shooting Range, Utah County proposes two short-distance ranches of 25 and 50 yards for pistols and two long-distance ranges of 100 and 300 yards for large-caliber rifles. Each would have 10 shooting stations. The county will construct a continuous earthen berm, 10 feet high and 8 feet thick around the down-range parts of the firing lanes, according to an environmental assessment (EA). These berms will dampen the noise and help in the recovery of spent lead. The range is intended to be "a self-serve, self-policing, honor system type facility as there would be no daily supervision."

The document indicates that to achieve the project's goals it still may be necessary to continue enforcing temporary and permanent closures on public lands to the north.

"The opportunity to channel indiscriminate shooting to a properly designed, well maintained shooting range would significantly reduce the fire danger in the Lake Mountain vicinity. Clearing and control of vegetation, especially invasive plants such as cheatgrass, would further reduce the fire danger at the [shooting range] site," the EA states. "The objective is to provide a well-designed facility that is user friendly which would encourage shooters to use the range as opposed to random, less desirable sites."

The range would also feature places for archery, trap shooting, as well as restrooms and storage sheds. Development would be phased in over five years. It is expected to be used for hunter-education and firearm-safety events.

Twitter: @brianmaffly