Efforts to build a gun range near Moab are coming closer to fruition, though a rare plant may complicate matters. Walt Maldonado, recreation specialist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, has been working on creating a safe place for Moabites to shoot for four years, but he said plans have been in the works for almost 20. Now, Maldonado thinks they have found a good location south of Moab near Ken’s Lake; however, the site is home to Astragalus iselyi, a plant that is only found on the western slope of the La Sal Mountains in Grand and San Juan counties.
Originally, the plan was to build the gun range north of town near the airport. It was decided that was too far from Moab and the range would not be used very often. Maldonado claimed the range built outside of Price has suffered from being built too far away from the city center. He believes an area south of Ken’s Lake might be ideal. “It’s a good distance from the community,” Maldonado said, noting how it would be close enough to be convenient, but far away enough to prevent the noise from bothering residents. The site they are currently surveying is in the area between Highway 191 and the La Sal Mountain Loop Road, often referred to by locals as the clay pits.
The area is already used for shooting. Anyone travelling along the rough dirt roads of the area will notice the bullet-riddled garbage left behind. Maldonado thinks putting in a legitimate range will significantly cut back on unregulated shooting and the impacts that come with it.
Describing the area, Maldonado said, “It’s perfect… it’s a big bowl that’s kind of sound proof and it’s really safe. There’s 110 acres of workable ground there.” Once the survey is completed and the map is drawn up, Maldonado will meet with the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that manages the designated recreation area.
Last year, Maldonado had surveyed and mapped where to build the gun range and was ready to set the process in motion, but a botanist did a walk-through of the proposed range and found the endemic plant. The BLM decided the gun range would have to be placed somewhere else. “I had to resurvey it and move it 25 feet to the east,” he said. Maldonado plans to meet with the BLM again this fall, and this time he will “come loaded for bear.” He said, “Hopefully I can bring some business owners and some people that are in the know to the meeting and put a little pressure on the BLM that this is needed really bad in Moab.”
The BLM recognizes the necessity for a gun range. According to Lisa Bryant, spokesperson for the BLM Moab Field Office, “It’s a recreation need that’s out there, and we’ve been working with partners trying to find a way to accommodate it.” Bryant also added, “The BLM and Grand County have been working together for some time to find a suitable location for a shooting range, and several sites have been considered.”
Aside from providing a place for people to recreationally shoot, the range could also be used for hunter safety classes and for training by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. The range would be 1,000 yards in length, and if a pit was built, then it could be used for sanctioned National Rifle Association long-range competitions. The area is large enough for trap shooting, a pistol range, and an archery range.
The range would be surrounded by hills, which would act as “natural barriers” said DWR Conservation Outreach Manager Morgan Jacobsen. “This is just a good place for it,” he added. Jacobsen described how DWR would play a supporting role while the Moab Sportsmen’s Club will take the lead and manage the range. He mentioned how nearby communities like Monticello and Green River already have gun ranges. Moab has the need and the community support for a gun range, as well as far more resources compared to those smaller towns, so both Maldonado and Jacobsen are confident it will happen.
Bryant said that once the BLM has received a proposal, it “would go through public comment and analysis.” According to Maldonado, the BLM’s stamp of approval is all that is missing. “Once it’s approved, it will fly,” he said, “I’ve got business owners and people in Moab that are ready to donate their equipment, do all the dirt work and get everything going.”