Target shooting close to homes is a growing problem in Boulder's High Country

Posted at 9:29 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-12 13:19:55-04

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- People are target-shooting dangerously close to homes in Boulder's High Country, and neighbors are growing increasingly concerned about their safety.

"Just boom, boom, boom -- all day," explained Leah DeCapio, who's home borders the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.

DeCapio said they hear gunshots ring out almost every weekend, and more and more empty shell casings are being found on trails or near backyards.

She lives off Magnolia Road in Nederland, and less than a mile from a trailhead on Forest Service Road 357, where she said clear evidence of the shooting can be found.

"What are your concerns about living here," asked Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

"That someone will get hurt," said DeCapio.

"Everybody uses that public land all the time and so to have people out here shooting is just really dangerous, not only for the people who live here but for the people who are recreating here too," said another homeowner who lives nearby and asked us not to use her name for her privacy.

Denver7 first told you about the issue last year, when we went along with Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest service planners to see the problem firsthand. They showed us hundreds of shell casings and paper targets shooters left behind in the forest.

Forest service officials have been working since last year to come up with clearer guidelines for recreational shooting and designated safe shooting areas, but months later there is still no solution.

"The stakes are high if things go wrong," said Forest Planner Joshua Milligan during an interview last summer.

Under current regulations, anyone can shoot in the national forest as long as they're 150 yards from a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area or occupied area.

One-hundred-fifty yards is the equivalent of one and half football fields, four and half city blocks, 450 feet or 138 meters.

They also must shoot "safely."

"When you give someone 150 yards it really doesn't require any judgment," explained Milligan last summer.

For landowners like DeCapio, that's too close for comfort.

"I don't want a dog getting shot or my child," she said.

Tammy Williams, a spokeswoman for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest Service said officials plan to meet with landowners who are concerned about shooting off Magnolia Road, but an exact time and date has not yet been determined. 

"We take safety seriously including recreational sports shooting incidents. One mitigating action we currently have in process is ordering new signage specific to this issue to be placed in the area," said Williams in an email. 

The forest service also said they plan to release a draft plan on how to better deal with recreational shooting in the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest later this year. 

The plan contains three parts:

First, areas that are suitable for shooting where the 150 yard rule is in effect, would still apply for recreational shooting.

Second, lands that are not suitable for sports shooting would be banned for safety reasons.

And lastly, the forest service would install safety features including, berms for backstops and lanes to keep shooters firing in the same direction in locations that could be turned into designated shooting areas, where the 150 yard rule would not apply.