Trash left at shooting ranges in Pike National Forest a growing problem for years

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Barry Mawson calls this a horrific scene.

“This is turning into a trash dump,” said Mawson, who’s lived in the area for nearly 20 years.

He says the amount of trash at the shooting ranges on Gold Camp Road in Pike National Forest has been growing each year.

Forest rules state leaving trash behind is prohibited, along with shooting trees.

“But people do it anyway. They hang their targets on them and they bring up old TV sets, they bring up washing machines. You know, we found over the years, just a myriad of different things that.. you know, really? You had to drag a washing machine to shoot it? Please,” Mawson said.

The U.S. Forest Service says the Pikes Peak District spends nearly $20,000 annually on trash clean-up.

But because these undesignated shooting ranges are in a remote area, it’s difficult to enforce, especially when they cover close to 3 million acres.

“If it doesn’t stop, what’s going to happen, we’re going to get a fire started. And it’s going to be really bad news, especially for people that live up here,” Mawson said.

Nearly 95 percent of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests And Cimarron And Comanche National Grasslands are open to recreational shooting.

But there are rules put in place by the U.S. Forest Service to help maintain the forest.

Mawson says there are target shooters who do pick up after themselves, but others aren’t being so responsible.

“There’s nothing wrong with shooting. It’s a great sport, it’s a great activity for your family, yourself, but it doesn’t take any kind of trouble to pick up a sack, pick up your garbage and carry it out,” Mawson said.

Mawson hopes things change soon, so that target shooters, hikers and campers can enjoy the national forest.

The Forest Service says trash is always a concern for any part of the forest.

Those who violate the forest rules can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in prison.

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