NY BHA gets dirty to clean up public lands

By TIM ROWLAND, Originally published in the Sun Community News and Printing

JUNE 13, 2018 2:00 PM

HAGUE, New York — At an old sand pit in close proximity to the Rogers Rock State Campground, shooters have been showing up for years with a broad array of weaponry and unconventional targets, which they proceed to blast into oblivion with their shotguns and rifles.

Bottles, cans, tires, televisions — anything was fair game at what the state considers to be an illegal shooting range.

Aside from the mess, noise from the range can be a nuisance for campers, and is potentially dangerous to those who might be poking around in the woods.

Some who use the range have been shooting skeet, increasing the risk of falling shot.

Despite repeated efforts though, it’s been hard to dissuade shooters. Boulders blocking the range have been ignored, and signs warning that shooting is not permitted have become, somewhat predictably, targets themselves.

Later this month, the state and a volunteer cleanup crew hope to shut the range down for good.

A national conservation group that’s relatively new to New York and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will team up to clean the site and plant it with trees.

The cleanup is scheduled for June 23, and will be performed by DEC foresters and members of the New York chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, according to BHA members Carla and Dan Denn.

BHA members will clean the site, while the DEC is providing trees and signage.

Carla Denn said her organization has been looking for ways to volunteer on public lands, and the Adirondack Mountain Club mentioned the shooting range as a good opportunity. The range has become quite a mess, littered with a variety of shattered targets and a carpet of spent shells.

Dan Denn said he hopes that once the site is cleaned up and cared for, shooters will move on to

a place where shooting is more appropriate. “There are places to shoot and places not to shoot,” he said.

The land, part of a 158-acre parcel, is owned by the state, and is part of the Lake George Wild Forest.

The state often employs inmate help on cleanup details on public land, but with all the exposed metal, there was a fear something sharp might be secreted back to the jail, volunteers said.

Todd Waldron, New York Chapter Chair for BHA, said state membership as climbed to 400 people  in two years.

The group advocates the protection of public lands, development of wildlife habitat and an ethical approach to hunting. Members tend to be younger than hunters on average, and have a solid representation of women.

The group advocates in government for protection of public land for hunters, anglers, hikers and all people who enjoy the outdoors. And some of those people come from highly populated areas, such as New York City, Waldron said.

For them, the group can also help find places to hunt and fish, and locate mentors to show them the ropes.

Dan Denn said BHA has also benefited from the locavore movement, as people have become more interested in knowing where their food comes from, and eating local. That ethic includes hunting and fishing, he said.

Cleanup of the range represents the type of stewardship BHA hopes to perpetuate, fostering both care and respect for the land, Waldron said.

Those interested in learning more about BHA can visit their website at backcountryhunters.org.

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