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Brainard Lake in the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests on Sept. 15, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The U.S. Forest Service wants to increase the acreage where target shooting is prohibited in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests by more than 1,100 percent as the agency works to limit safety and use conflicts that have grown along with the Front Range’s population explosion.

But it says four or five new shooting ranges would have to be created first.

On Thursday the USFS released a draft decision outlining where the drastic expansion in no-target-shooting zones would be.

Right now, there are 18,301 acres closed to target shooting in the 1.4 million acre Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, which span Jefferson, Park, Grand, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties. Barring any changes, that would go up to 225,574 acres under the draft.

A U.S. Forest Service map of the proposed expansion of no-shooting zones in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests. (Provided map)

Reghan Cloudman, a USFS spokeswoman, said “a little bit of a lot of things” contributed to the decision to expand the areas closed to shooting, a process that began five years ago.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the last decade of recreational sports shooting as well as lots of other recreation,” Cloudman said. “As well as homes being built in that wildland urban interface adjacent to that national forest land.”

Conflicts with sport shooting on Forest Service land in Colorado rose to the forefront in July 2015 when Glenn Martin, a Monument man, was fatally wounded by an errant bullet while camping with family north of Woodland Park.

Cloudman said officials in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests are working with stakeholders on a similar expansion of areas closed to shooting. (Martin was killed in the Pike National Forest.)

A 45-day objection period has begun on the draft decision outlining the closures. The USFS expects a final map to be solidified by the end of this year or early 2019.

All of the closures would be contingent on the creation and opening of four to five new shooting ranges.

“No implementation would take place until that final decision is signed and the first range opens,” Cloudman said. “We understand people want to be out there and shooting, but we have to look at the safety concern.”

The closures would not impact legal hunting activities.

Recreational shooters, generally, are barred from shooting 150 yards from a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area or occupied area. They also cannot fire across a road, body of water, or generally in an area or manner that poses a risk to life or property.

For more on the proposal, visit the Forest Service’s website.

Rising Sun

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....