BLM ban on exploding targets goes into effect for the season

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IDAHO FALLS — The seasonal ban on using exploding targets on federal public lands is now in effect.

Idaho Bureau of Land Management State Director John Ruhs recently signed the 2019 Fire Prevention Order. The order bans exploding targets, tracer ammunition, fireworks and burning any kind of explosive material on public lands. It will stay in effect until Oct. 20.

“We’re not saying, ‘Don’t target practice on public lands,'” BLM Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist Jennifer Myslivy said. “If you’re going to, do it properly and wisely.”

According to a BLM news release, fires caused by shooting accounted for roughly 60 percent of human-caused wildfires on BLM land in 2018. The pattern holds up in eastern Idaho as well. Idaho Falls BLM District spokeswoman Kelsey Griffee said half of the human-caused BLM fires on this side of the state were caused by shooting last year.

In 2018, EastIdahoNews.com spoke to Dr. Mark Finney, a research scientist at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana. Finney 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. Finney said studies indicate the aluminum in exploding targets is what can start fires.

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“(Exploding targets) can start wildfires. One, if they are in an area that’s not clear of debris or grass. Also, if they’re not mixed correctly,” Myslivy said. “For us, for the wildland side, it’s the area that you’re shooting, and the things that you’re shooting them at.”

Earlier this year, the Idaho Legislature considered a bill to create a similar ban on exploding targets on state land. However, the bill didn’t find traction and was ultimately dropped.

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

While not specifically banned, Myslivy also warned about shooting at steel targets.

“When a bullet hits that, strikes that, there’s a spark that comes off. So if you’re shooting that stuff in dry grass and things like that, then that spark can ignite that dry grass,” she said.

Griffee said the BLM has begun preparing for the fire season in east Idaho and held a training in the Menan Butte area last week to prepare for wildfires.

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