The Arizona Game and Fish Department is moving forward with plans to build a shooting range east of Flagstaff. Last year, the AZGFD purchased the 160 acre Foster Ranch near Walnut Canyon National Monument with the intention of developing a range. The department has been looking for a suitable location for a shooting facility for nearly 20 years.
The location has drawn criticism from many Northern Arizona residents and several tribes who think building a shooting range next to a national monument is unwise. There are concerns the sounds of gunfire will detract from the experience of viewing ancient cliff dwellings.
AZGFD Shooting Range Branch Chief, Jay Cooke, tells Flagstaff Business News, they analyzed 50 different locations before deciding on Foster Ranch. Past efforts included land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service. When plans for the proposed ranges moved forward, residents near the sites objected, stalling the projects. By purchasing private land, the process became more streamlined for the game and fish department.
“Our search has been exhaustive and we felt this was a feasible location,” explained Cooke. “We did look at where wildlife corridors where critical habitat is, it’s outside of that. We did sound studies which indicate we are below the state statue for sound emission from a shooting range and that was before any sound mitigation, so we intend to have shooting berms, other acoustic materials to help do sound emissions, so we already know we are below the standards,” said Cooke, talking about his department’s plans to further mitigate the sounds of gunshots.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission unanimously approved plans for the site, which is a 30 minute drive from downtown Flagstaff, one of the commission’s primary goals for the shooting range. In addition to facilities for shooting, there will be camping on site, and an educational facility. The closest shooting range is about a two hour drive from Flagstaff.
|(News release from AGFD)|
|The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, today, unanimously approved the master site plan for the future Northern Arizona Shooting Range.
“Approval of the site design is a huge step towards filling the more than 40 year void for a designated shooting venue in Northern Arizona,” said Chief of Shooting Ranges for Game and Fish, Jay Cook.
The design approved reflects slight modifications from the draft presented to the public at the open house last week where more than 100 persons attended, providing 55 comments on the plan. Public input from that meeting resulted in increasing the archery range from 50 yards to 100 yards.
The other significant change was to the 800-yard long distance rifle range which is now oriented to true north with lateral safety and sound berming on each side of the range. Although more costly, these changes were made based on input from competitive long-range shooters and sound concerns from Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Cook added, “With the approved plan, we can now begin to address the details of the range and develop a safe shooting range on the Foster Ranch site that is compatible with other public uses and values in the area.”
The range will be developed in stages over the next couple of years based on funding, resources, weather conditions, and many other factors. To keep up-to-date on the progress of the range, visit www.azgfd.gov/nazsr.
Game and Fish receives no tax dollars from the state’s general fund and operates under a user-pay, user-benefit model. The property was purchased and will be developed through the sale of licenses to hunters and anglers. A $3 surcharge is imposed on hunting and fishing licenses to acquire, construct, renovate, or improve Game and Fish facilities. The fund for the development of the Northern Arizona Shooting Range was established beginning in 2001.