Wyoming shooters are planning to work together this weekend to clean up a section of public land north of Laramie, and in the process they hope to spark a national movement among outdoor recreationists.
Change Your Range is the name of the effort, scheduled for 10 a.m. today. Volunteers are planning to meet at Laramie Rifle Range, 73 Rifle Range Road, and carpool a few miles northeast to a section of BLM land bisected by Roger Canyon Road.
There, volunteers plan to pick up “trigger trash” and other detritus left behind by shooters and other visitors. The event is being organized by the University of Wyoming Precision Shooting Club and Gunwerks, a Cody-based company that makes equipment for long-range shooting.
The first 50 volunteers will receive a T-shirt, and lunch will be provided.
Miles Golding, president of the UW Precision Shooting Club, explained that trigger trash refers to the casings and shells that fall from rifles and shotguns as they are fired. Often, shooters also leave behind the targets they shot at, he said, which could include glass bottles, clay pigeons or even things like appliances or furniture.
“We love the opportunity to get out and go to public lands as shooters, so it’s a cool opportunity we get to have to get a big group together and go clean up and give back to the land that we love to use,” Golding said.
James Christiansen, chief operations officer at Gunwerks, said the company is hoping to expand its philanthropic efforts with Change Your Range. The big-picture goal of the program is to change the mindset of shooters on public lands.
“In the past decade, the trigger trash being left behind by the public lands shooter is getting out of control,” he said. “A lot of lands are beings shut down.”
Gunwerks manufactures long-range hunting rifles, scopes, range finders and ammunition packages, Christiansen said.
One arm of Change Your Range is a series of clean-ups on public parcels around the country. The Laramie event is the first such clean-up, and the company intends to organize one each quarter of the coming year.
But one company cleaning up a parcel of land won’t make a dent in the problem, he said. That’s where a second element of Change Your Range comes in.
On March 1, Gunwerks is launching a giveaway program in conjunction with other companies in the firearms industry. Shooters will be invited to take a picture of themselves cleaning up their own trash and that of others and posting that picture to #ChangeYourRange, where they will be eligible to win prizes.
“That will give some incentive for those guys to go out on the weekend, shoot their shot shells, pick up their garbage, and maybe pick up a TV or a mattress or some more shot shells that somebody left on the way out,” Christiansen said.
Getting all shooters involved in cleaning up after themselves is the only way to make a lasting change, he said.
“If everybody just left it a little bit cleaner than how they found it, we could solve the problem,” he said.
The last piece of Change Your Range will come in the form of increased access to public shooting areas. Gunwerks plans to donate the profits from a new line of rifle targets toward establishing shooting areas in places that need more access.
“(We’re going to) identify places where there’s a trigger trash problem because there’s not access to a range,” he said.
Christiansen contacted Gov. Mead’s office for help choosing a location for the first clean-up, and he eventually connected with the Laramie Rifle Range and the UW Precision Shooting Club.
The Roger Canyon area is a good candidate for a clean-up effort, as past public complaints led to efforts by the BLM to curb littering, resource destruction, illegal motorized travel and nuisance shooting. The public parcel consists of 640 acres surrounded by private land.
About five years ago, some groups called for closing the area to recreational shooting in the interest of public safety. The BLM installed a fence and parking area near the road to direct shooting to designated areas.
Golding said maintaining access to public lands was important for shooters.
“Having a great place to shoot is pretty much the majority of the struggle of our sport,” he said.
The UW Precision Shooting Club was formed last spring by students interested in long-range shooting. The club aims to involve new people in the sport by organizing low-cost events while teaching safety and technique.
“It can be kind of intimidating to go and shoot a thousand yards with a rifle,” Golding said. “We want to make what we love as a sport a little bit more accessible.”
Volunteers should bring gloves, shovels and rakes. After the clean-up, volunteers are invited to return to the rifle range to fire rifles from Gunwerks and Seekins Precisions. Ammunition will be provided by Hornady Manufacturing.