Gun Range Closings Don’t End Threat of Forest Fires


Despite the closing of nearly half the target shooting areas in the Angeles National Forest last year, fire danger from such shooting remains a threat, forest officials warned in their annual “state of the forest” report.

Some target shooters use steel-core bullets that can ricochet and cause sparks that may lead to fires, the report said.

During the last year, the Angeles National Forest closed five of its 11 shooting areas. But shooting, the report said, “continues to be a concern to forest managers, target shooters and all other forest users.”

Shooting in the forest has sometimes meant “unsafe acts, illegal weapons and ammunition, litter and destruction of property and signs,” the report said.


The good news is that there were no serious wildfires in the forest last year, despite a prediction that 12,800 acres might burn. Only 1,642 acres burned, which forest officials attributed to fire prevention activities and aggressive firefighting efforts at the first sign of a blaze.

Other perils cited in the report include hazardous-waste spills in the forest, of which a dozen were recorded last year. Several involved the dumping of chemicals used in the manufacture of illegal drugs, a forest official said, adding that a total of a dozen spills a year was not uncommon in the forest.

Drought and water-related topics were mentioned as “emerging issues.”

“The drought, needs of local vegetation and wildlife, along with public demand for cheap water are going to be a major issue of the 1990s,” the report said. On the water-use front, it said, “We now have ski areas which wish to develop a longer ski season through snow making and also increase profits by selling water.”


The report, the subject of a Jan. 10 public hearing in Glendora, said the persistent drought already is posing difficulties. Reforestation efforts are being thwarted, and existing trees are suffering, “with old growth stands being hardest hit.”

Commenting on the report of “the most urban national forest in the nation,” Angeles Supervisor Michael J. Rogers said: “The most significant element is that we are moving forward, even though we only have half the funding we said we needed. We are trying to pick and choose.”

The report points out that $18 million was spent on the Angeles National Forest in the last fiscal year even though an overall plan, approved in 1987, called for $31 million to be spent for proper management. The 1987 plan set out how the forest should be managed for a 10- to 15-year period.

The 10-page report takes a broad-brush approach to a number of subjects and generally makes no effort to identify which are most important. Angeles resource planner Robert T. Haggard said that may be because forest officials are trying to accommodate the many diverse interests expressed by the public.

“You don’t manage to the exclusion . . . you try to manage the forest for the greatest number of uses, the greatest good,” Haggard said.

Under the category of good news for wildlife, Haggard said, the report noted that an ongoing program to inventory the southern spotted owl found 25 pairs and 42 individuals in the Angeles last year.

This, he said, was a good sign since it is generally thought that the owls prefer large tracts of old-growth trees, such as those found in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, where the rare, northern spotted owl is at the forefront of an environmental controversy. “We don’t have large tracts of timber but we’re finding more and more spotted owls,” Haggard said.

The 693,000-acre forest also grew a little last year, the report said, citing the $300,000 purchase of 156 acres in the Dillon Divide area of Little Tujunga Canyon.