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Proposed bill would ban exploding targets on state land during fire season


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Exploded exploding target | Archive image

BOISE — A proposed bill would ban exploding targets on state-owned land during fire season.

Senate minority leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said she wants to match Idaho law with federal law that bans exploding targets on federal lands. Her proposed bill would make shooting exploding targets on state-owned land a misdemeanor.

“I do have the support of the (Idaho) Department of Lands. I have the support of the Office of Emergency Management. I have talked to sheriffs and I have talked to judges. It seems like a lot of people want us to do something about (exploding targets),” Stennett said.

Fire season in Idaho starts May 10, through October 20. Under federal law, it is a misdemeanor to use exploding targets on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other federally owned lands.

RELATED: Exploding targets ignite wildfire debate

If passed, the bill would give Idaho a similar law regarding state-owned lands. At the moment, Stennett explained Idaho law only allows the state to ban exploding targets during a fire emergency.

The Sharps Fire which burned nearly 70,000 acres and caused evacuations last summer was sparked by an exploding target on state-owned land just south of Ketchum.

According to the BLM, exploding targets started at least five fires in eastern Idaho last year.

A variety of types and brands of exploding targets exist, but the most popular kind — which can be purchased at most department stores — are binary exploding targets. These targets use ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. Once the two substances are mixed, they become explosive when struck at high velocity by an object like a bullet.

In a previous interview with, research scientist Dr. Mark Finney at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana said exploding targets, if mixed exactly right, are less likely to cause a fire. However, if they are mixed improperly they send out burning aluminum powder which can and does start fires.

The bill, if passed, would not apply to private property and shooting ranges that allow exploding targets.

“We’re not trying to tell shooting ranges what they can do on (their property) and we don’t tell private property owners what they can do on (their property),” Stennett said.