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CPW shutting down Basalt shooting range as fire concerns heighten

With wildfire concerns and risks increasing and Roaring Fork Valley residents on edge, the Basalt shooting range has been closed indefinitely, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official told the Basalt town council on Tuesday.

Matt Yamashita, the CPW’s area wildlife manager, told the council the range will be closed starting Thursday and signs will be put in Wednesday (the range is always closed on Wednesdays). He said the decision came knowing Stage 2 restrictions are coming Friday for Eagle County and also after listening in Tuesday morning on the regional fire managers’ weekly call.

“We’re going to move toward closure of the range starting Thursday,” Yamashita told Basalt town council. “It’s closed until conditions improve.”



Questions were raised over the weekend about why the shooting range, which is part of the Basalt State Wildlife Area and the site of the start to the Lake Christine Fire in 2018, was open.

Eagle County has a policy that when red-flag warnings are issued, the county lands automatically go up to the next level of restrictions. So, when the county started its Stage 1 restrictions Friday in Eagle County, they were bumped to Stage 2 during the red-flag warnings from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Stage 2 restrictions do not allow for recreational shooting on public and private land.



However, Yamashita said Tuesday he and Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek discussed last week and again over the weekend that those heightened rules are in place for county land, not on state or federal land.

“That (upgrade) comes with a shade of gray in there,” Yamashita told council. “Where there was some clarification needed was that the public portion of that definition that was interrupted by the sheriff and myself as being on county-owned public lands. When it comes to state-owned public lands and federally-owned public lands, the sheriff … refers it back to the state or federal agencies that manage those lands.”

Basalt has a resolution requesting the range be closed during Stage 2 restrictions, but it’s not automatic.

Councilor Gary Tennenbaum, Mayor Bill Kane and others said they fielded a lot of questions about why the range was still open during the Stage 2 time over the weekend.

“It is amazing in the last three or four days how many people have asked me ‘is the shooting range going to stay open or not?’ I appreciate you guys taking it seriously,” Tennenbaum said. “I think it’s going to calm a lot of people down that you are going to close it. … It’s just reminding us all of a few years ago.”

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee uses a bulldozer to create a berm at the Basalt Shooting Range in September 2018 on the edge of where the Lake Christine Fire started on July 3, 2018.
Anna Stonehouse / Aspen Times file photo

The 2018 Lake Christine Fire started on July 3 when two people were using tracer rounds at the range and started the fire, which burned 12,500 acres around Basalt Mountain as well as three homes.

Yamashita said there is concern among fire officials about closing the range and enthusiasts going to public lands for practice. He said some fire officials wanted CPW to keep the range open to avoid disperse shooting.

“We are aware that recreational shooting will still likely occur,” Yamashita said. “We would strongly, strongly encourage that people don’t shoot, don’t take recreational shooting practices in unimproved areas where there is still an immense risk for fire. … Right now is not the time to be exercising that portion of your hobby.”

Councilor Glenn Drummond offered the CPW’s Cameo Shooting Complex in Palisade as a safe alternative.

“Thanks for making a tough decision here,” Mayor Kane said to Yamashita. “We all appreciate it and I think the community appreciates it too.”

 


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