/ Modified jun 6, 2024 2:40 p.m.

BLM restricts target shooting at Sonoran Desert National Monument to protect natural and cultural resources

New regulations limit dispersed recreational shooting to 5,295 acres, safeguarding plant species, archaeology sites and historic trails.

Sonoran Desert National Monument Sonoran Desert National Monument.
Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced an adjustment to where public land users are allowed to have target practice at the Sonoran Desert National Monument, located 90 miles northwest of Tucson.

480,496 acres out of 485,791 BLM-administered acres of the monument will now be unavailable for dispersed recreational target shooting.

The activity will be allowed on 5,295 acres dispersed throughout the monument and does not affect hunting in the area.

Chris Wonderly, a spokesman for the federal agency said the change was in response to a settlement agreement from April 2022, between the BLM and National Trust for Historic Preservation, the WIlderness Society and Sierra Club.

“BLM agreed to reopen a planning process to investigate how and if recreational target shooting can work alongside natural resources and cultural resources in the Sonoran Desert National Monument,” Wonderly said.

Plant species, archaeology sites, and historic trails that makeup the monument’s diverse ecosystem were found to be incompatible with recreational target shooting.

Wonderly added that outside of the monument, about 93% of the 12.1 million acres of BLM managed lands in Arizona, remain open to dispersed recreational shooting.

“In the last couple of years, we recently opened four developed recreational target shooting sites where people can come and shoot in areas that [have] more developed facilities,” Wonderly said.

Established in 2001, by a presidential proclamation made by President Bill Clinton, the monument was designated to, “protect an array of biological, archaeological, geological and cultural objects of historic or scientific interest” according to the BLM.

In 2012, the agency completed a resource management plan and in March 2015, a federal court order which issued a ruling in the case of National Trust for Historic Preservation et. al v. Raymond Suazo, BLM and Department of the Interior, called for a new analysis of the impacts to the monument caused by dispersed shooting.

In 2018, BLM amended its plan to allow the activity in certain parts of the monument, but this decision was challenged again in 2019, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Wilderness Society and Sierra Club, inevitably leading to a 2022 court settlement and current planning efforts.

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