R

ecently, Range365 posted some excellent advice on Public Land Plinking, providing tips that one might not think need to be explicitly stated. But, apparently there’s a lot of folks who need a reminder on how to be a responsible public land shooter.

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Gunwerks COO James Christiansen, addressing the volunteers before the Change Your Range cleanup in Utah.Andy McDaniels

As a public land user in Colorado, this is something that bothers me. It is not uncommon to head out for a hike or a hunt, and to find trash on the ground as well as shell casings and busted clays – there’s no doubt who did this, and it reflects poorly on all of us as shooters.

The truth is there are plenty of people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot up a refrigerator or a microwave on public lands and leave it out there. And once one person does it, apparently others follow suit thinking it must be legit. At established or de facto public land shooting ranges, you can find old mattresses and couches, shot up mannequins, appliances, and bags upon bags of spent shells, cartridges, and broken glass.

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Darren West, the Mule Deer Foundation’s Utah state volunteer coordinator stands with an Orca cooler and hats that MDF donated as giveaway prizes for the Change Your Range Cleanup.Andy McDaniels

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the man who oversees the nation's federal public lands, recognizes the challenge. In January, right after SHOT Show, Zinke joined a group of about 50 volunteers, including National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Senior Vice President Larry Keane, to clean up a public land shooting area outside of Las Vegas. Zinke is a strong supporter of hunting and shooting, but he couldn't believe the amount of trash on "our" public lands.

When did this become acceptable? We all need to embrace a shift in our shooting range ethics if we hope to continue to shoot on public lands, because bad actors can and will spoil it for everyone.

Thankfully some industry and non-profit groups are coming together to coordinate clean ups and build public awareness to help #ChangeYourRange. Gunwerks COO and the founder of #ChangeYourRange, James Christiansen, said the concept developed in a very simple way.

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Volunteers loading trash onto flatbeds at the Change Your Range cleanup near Saratoga Springs, UT.Andy McDaniels

Cody, Wyoming-based Gunwerks is a long-range shooting company and public lands are critical for shooters to practice – but there's always a threat of public lands being shut down for shooting.

“What we realized is that some of these proposed closures have been brought on by ourselves. When people go out to public lands and shoot at old appliances or furniture and leave it there, or if there are safety concerns, it’s almost understandable when there is opposition to public lands shooting,” Christiansen commented. “We came up with #ChangeYourRange as a way to change the culture of public lands shooting and encourage responsible behavior.”

Through #ChangeYourRange, shooters are encouraged to do DIY cleanups where they are shooting and post the hashtag on social media to spread the word of good shooting range ethics. But where there are particularly bad areas, #ChangeYourRange is also planning to host some big, volunteer cleanup efforts to really spread the word.

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Utah Dedicated Hunters and Andy McDaniels from Change Your Range.Andy McDaniels

On Saturday, May 12, nearly 250 people gathered on a cold, rainy day to clean up a public land shooting area on Bureau of Land Management property near Saratoga Springs, Utah. The volunteers removed 9 tons of debris filling three dumpsters and numerous flatbeds and pickup truck beds. Apparently, the volunteers had cleaned up the main area by noon, but many had planned for the entire day, so they moved on to some additional surrounding areas and cleaned those up as well.

“Here in Utah, we had a public shooting area on BLM public lands south of Salt Lake,” said Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation, and partner in the #ChangeYourRange effort. “We had people shooting over the hills and bullets going into subdivisions, we had someone start a fire because they shot tannerite explosive targets. There was trash everywhere. The BLM said enough and shut the area down. The area that was cleaned up near Saratoga Springs was even worse before the #ChangeYourRange event.”

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Utah Dedicated Hunters loading flatbed for the dump.Andy McDaniels

The overall mission of #ChangeYourRange is: “Changing the mindset of the public land shooter, leaving public shooting locations cleaner.”

The hope is that by building awareness of the issue—and coordinating efforts to clean up public lands shooting ranges—we can begin to foster a code of ethics in shooters to take responsibility for these areas. The goal is to make #ChangeYourRange go viral, think along the lines of the ice bucket challenge.

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A mother carries her young daughter in a pack to help clean up the Utah Cleanup.Andy McDaniels

“We want a shooter who goes out with their kids and their friends on a weekend to pick up after themselves, and to haul out a trash bag or two of the junk they find in the area,” Christiansen continued. “We want them to take a picture of the group and the trash they picked up and share it on social media with the #ChangeYourRange hashtag – then we want them to tag their friends to encourage them to do the same thing. And we’re going to reward these good actors. We’ve got a growing list of top industry partners so we’ll have giveaways for people who participate at CYR events, and we’ve got weekly prizes for those who help clean up their areas and post it on social media.”

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Father and daughter volunteers taking a break for lunch.Andy McDaniels

As MDF’s Moretti noted, “We’re involved with this because, just like hunting, shooting sports needs to have a code of ethics. The Mule Deer Foundation has a tremendous volunteer network across the West and our chapters will be joining up with #ChangeYourRange events to help clean up our public lands. We hope that the attention this effort brings to public land shooting ethics will help shift behavior.”

So, keep your eye out for future #ChangeYourRange events or take the initiative to make the difference on the public lands shooting areas near you. And post a picture using the #ChangeYourRange hashtag – for once we’ll forgive the selfies and hashtagging while you’re at the range!

For more information about #ChangeYourRange, or if you're a company interested in becoming a partner, contact Andy McDaniels at 405-850-2890 or email info@changeyourrange.org.