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U.S. Forest Service bans use of exploding targets in some national forests, grasslands

Aug 19, 2013 - From staff reports

Exploding targets have started at least 16 wildfires since 2012 on Forest Service lands in 8 western states, with 7 of those fires occurring in the Rocky Mountain Region causing the federal government to spend approximately $33.6 million in suppression costs

The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office, has announced that the regional forester has signed a regional closure order prohibiting un-permitted explosives on national forest system lands, specifically to prohibit the use of exploding targets.

The closure order was announced by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Dan Jiron and U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region special agent in charge Laura Mark during a press conference about the wildfire danger caused by exploding targets.

"Enjoying your public lands is what we encourage and promote every day," Jiron said. "Hunting and target shooting are welcome recreational experiences on national forest system lands. We just want visitors to have safe and enjoyable experiences."

Exploding targets have been identified as the cause of at least 16 wildfires in the Western states, costing taxpayers more than $33 million in fire suppression costs. The order applies to all un-permitted explosives, but focuses on exploding targets. The closure order includes all national forests and grasslands in the five-state Rocky Mountain Region. Those states include Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Exploding targets can be purchased legally and are intended for use as a target for firearms practice. Exploding targets generally consist of two or more separate chemical components that become an explosive when mixed together. The powder components are kept separate within individual containers for sale and transport. Once mixed, however, the components become explosive, and thus are subject to federal explosive laws and regulations.

The targets explode when struck by a bullet. When detonated, exploding targets often result in a fireball that can ignite vegetation and surrounding materials. The explosion also causes other risks to an individual's health and safety.

Under the order, if caught using an exploding target, the user can face a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 6 months.

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