Hyalite shooting restrictions get mixed reviews

By ROSS SELLERS/Montana State News

Any shooter hoping to get some target practice in at Hyalite Canyon can expect a $100 fine due to the recent shooting restriction put in place by the Custer Gallatin National Forest Service, according to Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman District ranger.

Stoeffler said the primary reason for this closure is safety, citing the density of recreation sites (475 developed sites, 185 dispersed camping sites, 70 miles of trail and 65 miles of road) in the Hyalite drainage. Stoeffler said it was almost “impossible to get a safe distance between recreational shooters and the rest of the recreating public.”

According to a press release issued March 8 by the Custer Gallatin National Forest Service, the restriction for target shooting in the Hyalite Canyon will go into effect on April 20, and will remain in place throughout the year, but it will not affect hunting in Hyalite.

Stoeffler also said, “the response to the shooting closure has been overwhelmingly supportive,” because many believed that there is too much public use in Hyalite for shooting to be safe.

There are some in Bozeman that certainly do not agree with the shooting restriction though. “The restriction is bogus,” Montana State University student, and avid Hyalite Canyon shooter, Zach Williams said.

Williams was put off by the fact that the Forest Service did not include public opinion in the decision: “They are just listening to the liberal whims and whines of The Friends of Hyalite.”

Stoeffler said “The Forest Service will be kicking off a more thorough public involvement process in the fall to look at this area…. If anyone would like to be part of that process, they should become engaged in that planning for the future.”

Another reason for the restriction was because of resource management; Stoeffler said “acres of trees” were being shot down and “thousands of pounds of trash” were being left behind each year.

Williams said that leaving trash behind is the sign of an irresponsible shooter: “As a kid, I was taught that I needed to come back to the house with as many shells as I left with.”

Williams also compared the trash from bullet casings and shells to the excrement left behind by dogs, while also emphasizing the trash left behind from beer cans. “We see [bags of dog excrement] everywhere, should we ban dogs? No. Why don’t we ban beer while we’re at it? Hold the people being disrespectful accountable,” Williams said.

Stoeffler does not anticipate the restriction to reduce the number of people who visit the Hyalite Canyon, but for people like Williams, the restriction will certainly put a damper on some of their summer recreation.

The restriction will help to address the issue of safety in the immediate future, but the public involvement process in the fall will help to develop a more in depth analysis of the situation, according to Stoeffler.
– Edited by Natalie Walters

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