Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved title=
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved
Reads 4394

Countless TVs, computers, and other items with toxic components have been found riddled with bullets at unmanaged shooting sites. This photo was taken in January 2019 at a site near Figueroa Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest (Photo: LPFW)

Source: Environmental Defense Center, Los Padres ForestWatch

The U.S. Forest Service and Los Padres ForestWatch have formally agreed to take a series of steps aimed at reducing the impacts of target shooting throughout the Los Padres National Forest in central California. The agreement—approved in U.S. District Court yesterday—resolves a 2018 lawsuit challenging the agency’s failure to address the proliferation of litter, soil and water contamination, wildfires, vandalism, harm to endangered wildlife, and other environmental and public safety hazards caused by decades of unmanaged target shooting across nearly two million acres of national forest land.

Under the agreement, the Forest Service will prepare detailed studies and consult with federal wildlife agencies to assess and reduce the impacts of target shooting on rare and endangered plants and animals, such as the California condor, California red-legged frog, southern mountain buckwheat, and Kern mallow. The agreement also provides for a temporary ban on target shooting and requires the Forest Service to notify the public about the closure, to post signs at shooting sites, and to take other steps to enforce the ban on target shooting.

“Our public lands have suffered from decades of litter, vandalism, natural resource damage, and unsafe conditions caused by unregulated target shooting,” said ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper. “This agreement will make our public lands cleaner and safer places for everyone to visit, will better protect rare plants and animals, and will allow shooters to continue practicing their marksmanship at designated, well-managed sites.”

“The Forest Service promised to close the Los Padres National Forest to unrestricted target shooting almost fifteen years ago,” said Earthrise Legal Fellow Kathryn Roberts. “We hope that the temporary closure required by this agreement will demonstrate that the forest can, as a practical matter, be closed permanently to unregulated target shooting and that such a closure would greatly benefit the forest’s native plants and wildlife and those who enjoy recreating in the Forest responsibly.”

“Unregulated target shooting poses a major threat to sensitive species, including the California condor,” said Maggie Hall, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Defense Center. “We applaud the Forest Service for complying with the important Endangered Species Act consultation process, designed to prevent harm to these species and their habitat.”

ForestWatch filed the lawsuit in August 2018 to improve the management of target shooting in the Los Padres National Forest. The suit alleges violations of the National Forest Management Act and the Endangered Species Act, and seeks to enforce a permanent ban on unmanaged target shooting that the Forest Service approved in 2005, but never implemented. ForestWatch is represented by the Earthrise Law Center in Portland, Oregon and the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, California.

The ban only applies to unmanaged target shooting. Legal hunting with a valid license is not affected, and target shooting can continue at the Ojai Valley Gun Club and the Winchester Canyon Gun Club, both of which are staffed and operated by nonprofit organizations permitted by the U.S. Forest Service.

Three other national forests in southern California have similar, permanent, bans in place. The Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests have prohibited target shooting outside of formally-designated shooting sites for decades.

In addition to the two permitted shooting sites in the Los Padres National Forest that remain open, shooters can practice their marksmanship at more than two dozen indoor and outdoor ranges located throughout the area. An interactive map of these ranges can be viewed at or courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

According to the Forest Service website, “Law Enforcement Officers will be strictly enforcing this Forest Order in all areas of the Forest.” Individuals cited for violating the ban will face a mandatory appearance in U.S. District Court, where the judge can levy fines of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail. Visitors who observe illegal target shooting should immediately contact 311 to file a report that will be relayed to Forest Service law enforcement officers and the local sheriff.


A ban on “dispersed” target shooting in the Los Padres National Forest was first adopted in 2005, when the Forest Service updated its management plan for the area. In approving the new plan, Regional Forester Bernie Weingardt stated:

The Los Padres National Forest has been historically open to recreational target shooting except where prohibited by closure order; however, with increasing numbers of national forest users, concerns for public health and safety, resource damage to areas where the activity has been concentrated, and the documentation of numerous wildland fires that have been caused by recreational target shooting, the Los Padres National Forest intends to develop a Forest closure order based on Standard S36 in Part 3 of the forest plan. This means the Los Padres National Forest will generally be closed to recreational target shooting except where it is allowed in designated open areas and ranges. The ranges are specific sites that are managed under special-use authorizations. This is not new in southern California. The other three southern California national forests (the Angeles, the Cleveland, and the San Bernardino National Forests) have restricted recreational target shooting to designated areas. Because of its rural character, the Los Padres National Forest has not seen the need to implement this strategy until now. As the population continues to grow and recreation demand increases, I must manage shooting in a way that provides for public health and safety and protects the forest environment. Shooting associated with hunting is not affected and will continue as in the past.

But in the decade following, the ban was not implemented. A 2016 report by Los Padres ForestWatch – a local nonprofit organization that protects the Los Padres National Forest—found nearly one hundred informal shooting sites throughout the forest. The report—Forest in the Crosshairs: The Environmental and Health Impacts of Target Shooting in the Los Padres National Forest—revealed large amounts of trash at these sites, along with dozens of trees left dead or dying from repeated shooting. Televisions, computer monitors, refrigerators, microwaves, and other household appliances were frequently used as targets, contaminating nearby soils and waterways with toxic heavy metals. The report also found numerous shooting sites within the forest near known nesting or roosting sites for the California condor, an endangered species whose recovery is especially threatened by lead poisoning from bullets. Shooting-related vandalism was also recorded at public restrooms and trailhead signs, costing tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to repair.

The Forest in the Crosshairs report also noted that target shooting has caused at least 53 wildfires in the Los Padres National Forest during the past 25 years, scorching a combined 74,478 acres of forestland according to official Forest Service data.

The Forest Service refused to implement its own target shooting ban, and ForestWatch outlined the agency’s legal responsibilities in an October 2017 letter. When forest officials took no action, ForestWatch filed suit ten months later in August 2018. The suit – Los Padres ForestWatch v. U.S. Forest Service – was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit sought to require implementation of the decade-old ban, and challenged federal wildlife agencies’ continued reliance on a ban that was never implemented to ensure adequate protection of endangered species in the Forest.


Past Articles

Login to add Comments


Toggle Comments (Show)
a-1590923289 Apr 21, 2019 09:37 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

I am greatly heartened by the fact the NRA has fallen on very hard financial times the past year due to the mass shootings, the connection to the Russians, and the fact that Americans are done with allowing special interest groups to dictate what we should have. Bravo!

Flicka Apr 20, 2019 10:58 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Funny how the NRA makes everyone paranoid that if anyone mentions guns they mean to take away the 2nd amendment. Maybe commenters here who have mentioned the 2nd will be gone because of closing target shooting areas could explain that logic.

Yeti Apr 19, 2019 11:54 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

It makes total sense to shut down locations like the Glass Factory to target shooting. It is dangerous and very unsightly. Unfortunately, so many people are absolute irresponsible pigs that bring up appliances and junk to shoot at, and later leave their trash for the rest of us to enjoy. It should not be the responsibility of the "shooting clubs/community to clean up after these people. To make this work, the Police and the Forest Service NEED to educate the public aggressively about the new position on this. They need to steer shooters to the local and legal shooting ranges for public shoot days and they need to ENFORCE the rule. Many local PSA's via TV, Radio and Spanish Stations. is critical for compliance. I have been watching people shooting at the glass factory for years after the recent closures with zero enforcement by local officials.

Concerned4Calif Apr 19, 2019 09:10 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Target shooting is a legitmate legal sport - restricting in 100% instead of allowing it a 2 or 3 specific sites will only drive it futher into the sensative habitat. These sites like the glass factory can become a mess and then the shooting community cleans them up. There are absolutely no condors at these sites. The gun clubs are fine but closed many days and only allow the public to shoot on weekends and charge a hefty fee for doing so. This is just another step towards stifling the second amendment rights. Apr 19, 2019 04:13 PM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Actually the 1997 Logan Fire which burned nearly 50,000 acres off Highway 166 in the Los Padres and the 2002 Wolf Fire which burned over 21,000 acres just south of Pine Mountain in the Ojai backcountry were both started by target shooting.

Concerned4Calif Apr 19, 2019 11:03 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Of all the major fires we have had in the local area, not a one was started by target shooting. Maybe by smoking, vehicle exhaust, electrical transformers, campers, illegal marijuana growing, and even lightning but none by target shooting. But target shooting? that dog don't hunt. The forest is for recreation and target shooting is recreation for many. Sites can be managed but its easier to simply close the sites.

RHS Apr 19, 2019 10:30 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

How absurd. The 2d Amendment does not give one the right to discharge firearms (that you have the right to possess) at any time or place. Can you really imagine that you could set up a junk target gallery in a city alley? Plink away at bottles on the beach? The NRA paranoia and their claim of privilege over the interests of the society is appalling and apparently washes brains.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 19, 2019 09:38 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Not sure how this is a 2nd amendment issue. They are not banning guns but managing the forests as they're tasked with. Lead is a toxin and fires from stray bullets and sparks are a serious threat. That is a big problem for us on the edge of the forest. The glass factory had become an abject mess. I was up there a couple of years ago for an afternoon of target shooting. There were hundreds of people with arms as large as a M60. It was far from safe and far from sane. The volume of trash and misuse was astounding. If you want to shoot, you'll have to join a club. Its not that restrictive as I'd rather have less trash and no chance of a fire than continue the craziness that was / is the glass factory. If you're a hunter, the entire Los Padres is practically open, but you'll have to work for the pleasure. You simply cannot just drive your truck up the the mountain, pull over and open fire. Those days are gone.

EastBeach Apr 19, 2019 12:38 AM
Agreement to Extend Ban on Los Padres Target Shooting Approved

Maybe pathetic, maybe not. You know how big guns like the NRA and monied interests work ... weaken the ability of government bodies and agencies to carry out their missions by lobbying Congress to underfund and undercut them, then get anti-regulation/anti-enforcement appointees and heads into leadership roles. It's a disgrace but that's how they play the game.

Please Login or Register to comment on this.