The Latest: Court bans shooting in Arizona national monument

BLM suddenly reversed its ban on shooting, leading to a lawsuit.

  • A Saguaro cactus damaged by target shooting.

    Scott Jones/Friends of Sonoran Desert National Monument

The Sonoran Desert National Monument in southern Arizona was designated in 2001 by President Bill Clinton. But when unrestricted recreational shooting damaged resources, including saguaro cacti, the Bureau of Land Management recommended a ban, citing concerns about wildlife, cultural relics and public safety. After the National Rifle Association objected, the agency then backed down (“Inside the BLM’s abrupt decision not to ban shooting in an Arizona national monument,” HCN, 12/18/13). Environmental and historical preservation groups sued, claiming the reversal violated federal law.

On March 27, the U.S. District Court for Arizona agreed, saying the decision lacked a “rational connection to the facts” and ran counter to the evidence the BLM itself had presented in environmental impact studies. The court revoked permission for shooting and instructed the BLM to reconsider its decision. “There are plenty of places in Arizona to target shoot without harming important resources and visitor safety,” said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center, the plaintiffs’ lawyer.

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