by Ray Birks
I drive up Number Two Canyon a lot, usually on my way to ride the trails on Twin Peaks. More often than not on my way up I’ll pass one or more cars parked in a gravel pullout or askew on the shoulder, the occupants of which are on the hillside target shooting. Before you get up in arms that this is a rant about guns, I’m not opposed to target shooting and this is not a rant about the second amendment or gun ownership. In fact, it really does not have a lot to do with guns. Instead, it’s all about what’s abandoned after target shooters are done recreating. It’s a mess and it’s irresponsible.
It doesn’t take a trained eye or even slowing the car down to see everything left behind; beer cans, televisions, milk jugs, targets of all varieties, strewn about the hillside and in the ditch, with no responsible parties cleaning it up. It’s a blight on our beautiful valley and doesn’t make those who recreate with a gun look very responsible.
I was ignorant about the WACs surrounding what exactly may be used as a target so I looked them up. WAC 332-52-145 states the following:
What may be used as a target?
(a) Items that are commercially manufactured for the specific purpose of target shooting or similar targets privately manufactured by the person(s) engaging in target shooting that are consistent with this section.
I interpret that to mean people shooting stuff on the side of the road should only be shooting items that are manufactured for the intended purpose. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife prohibits shooting at things like aluminum cans, plastic bottles or propane cylinders. Additional unauthorized targets include, but are not limited to:
-explosive and incendiary items
-garbage of any kind
Not only does all this indiscriminate shooting cause an eyesore, with trash, debris and shell casings littering the hillside, but it can also be a health hazard for animals who are attracted to the garbage and may ingest it, leading to greater issues. My main question is, “Why does this hobby get a pass when it comes to the Leave No Trace ethos?”
I try to put this in a different context to make it make sense in my brain. What if hikers or bikers, when they were done with their trash at a trailhead, simply chucked it onto the side of the trail or in the parking lot? What if it was accepted that this is okay to do simply because everyone was doing it? What if a trail was littered with Gatorade bottles, energy bar wrappers and the occasional television. I can imagine the uproar and the social media posts of piles of garbage carelessly, intentionally tossed about, with calls to close the trails because of the reckless attitude of the trail users. But apparently, if you’re outside of the city limits and shooting a gun at stuff, it’s okay.
I believe that if you partake in an activity that makes a mess and knowingly leave behind trash, you should pick it up. My mom would be so proud. When my kids go to a baseball game or the movies we do our best to throw our own garbage away, not rely on someone else, even though it may be their job. It’s just not a good habit and it’s disrespectful. The old adage, “Your mother does not work here. Clean up your own mess,” could be posted at the shooting site, but it would soon be filled with holes and left alongside the wrappers, glass and other debris.
In August of 2021, during the hot summer months, someone fired at an explosive target, Tannerite (a binary explosive), which led to a five-acre fire, right on the edge of town. Quick action by the local agencies and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put out the Number Two Canyon fire before it could spread. Currently, under Stage 1 restrictions in Chelan County, which prohibits outdoor burning, firing at explosive targets is also prohibited. This is the same type of activity that led to the 73,000 Goat Fire near Alta Lake in 2012.
To give some credit where credit is due, I have seen a few cleaning events where a group cleans up the “trigger trash” at the shooting site, but it shouldn’t be incumbent on those individuals to do the dirty work that other, less responsible shooters, are too lazy to do. And those events don’t happen all the time so most of the year the trash just lays there. Additionally, there is a legal shooting range just down the road from the unofficial site that is always neat and tidy showing that gun owners can abide by simple rules.
What I’ve learned working in the school system and being a part of the local mountain bike community for a long time is that the community educating and policing itself goes a lot further than any governing body can accomplish. My hope is that the shooting community recognizes the ongoing damage that’s being done not only to their image but to the greater good and finds ways to reach out to gun owners who can’t seem to find the time to recreate responsibly.