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Say No To Trigger Trash: Responsible Target Practice


This story comes from a California-based writer, but this problem exists throughout the country.  Leaving trash after a shooting session hurts everyone who enjoys the outdoors and creates a negative impression of shooters as a group.  Protect our sport and clean up after shooting.


An Ethical Responsibility for Recreation Target Practice

By Sterling White

Throughout the west both the BLM and the United States Forest Service note that they do not have staff or money to manage the clean-ups. Both the BLM and the USFS believe in community outreach through public education and have invested in campaigns that “work to curb” the problem.

My name is Sterling White and let me tell you that the amount of trigger trash is daunting in the desert. As the Hazardous Materials Specialist for BLM in the California Desert District cleanups are part of my responsibility and do they get expensive. Unlike the funds derived through fees or memberships to private ranges the funds I use for cleanups are appropriated by Congress. Having been with the BLM for over 20+ years I can attest that the agency isn’t against target shooters and does not want to take away those opportunities, however there needs to be a change of attitude when it comes to recreation shooting on Public Lands. Let me explain.

If you drive north out of the Inland Empire into the High Desert of southern California between Victorville and Barstow, you may not notice that an unintentional dumping ground is being created. Just off either side of the interstate are areas of state, federal and private land where one can find some picturesque desert vistas of San Bernardino County. However, there are also piles of trash consisting of shot-up computer monitors and towers, old televisions, pieces of glass bottles, washing machines, cell phones and shotgun shells. Federal law enforcement rangers that patrol these areas call the piles “trigger trash.”

Trigger_trash272These trash piles are a result of gun enthusiasts who view these open lands alongside the interstate as prime target practice locations using the hillsides as their target practice backdrop. Unfortunately, shooters are leaving their trash behind, some of which can be dangerous if not disposed of properly.

“A lot of people bring their own targets with them but they bring targets they shouldn’t be shooting,” states Patrick Chassie, Chief Ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, California Desert District, that manages the public land throughout this area. According to Chassie, typical household items such as glass bottles brought out to the desert for target practice, when exploded, can break into many pieces making it virtually impossible to cleanup. The shot-up glass also leaves behind a debris field that is ugly and dangerous because of the sharp edges. “Depending on the damage, one weekend of fun can cost over $1,000 per site for the Bureau to clean up,” adds Chassie. “The cleanup, though, is almost impossible. Some areas have so much debris that it would be equivalent to cleaning sand off of a beach.”

Also, please do be aware that steel core ammo or exploding targets are not allowed on Public Lands in Southern California due to their potential to start wildfires during periods of drought. Be sure to check with your local land managing agency to see if these items are permissible.
Trigger_trash372The trigger trash epidemic also has a profound effect on visual impacts that many come to the desert to enjoy. “Once a site becomes trashed, others will use it and illegally dump more waste not associated with recreational shooting,” Chassie said. “We ask that you always clean up your recreation area by removing ALL trash and debris.” said Chassie.

The public is encouraged to pick up trash left by less thoughtful people in order to maintain the scenic beauty of our public lands and it prevents future littering. Littering or creating a public safety hazard with debris is against the law.
What can you do? When you go target shooting clean up behind yourself, teach others the importance of land access and responsible recreation shooting, and remind young shooting enthusiast that they too have to be respectful. In the unlikely event that you do see anyone dumping trash on public lands, you are encouraged to write down a license number, a description of the vehicle, the date, time and location, and report this information to the nearest BLM or FS Field Office. If it is safe to do so, getting a photo of a vehicle involved in the activity is also helpful.
Sterling White is an action shooting sports competitor who works for the Bureau of Land Management. He grew up on his grandparent’s cattle ranch in New Mexico where his grandfather taught him how to shoot, gun safety, and respect for land and access. If you see him on the range or in the field feel free to say hello.