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Spent bullets, old shotgun shells litter Daniel Boone National Forest
LONDON, Ky. -- An explosion of spring color has taken on a new meaning in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Green buds on the willow and yellow flowers in the meadow now include red, black and silver bullet casings across the forest floor.
Rangers in the forest named for Kentucky's most famous marksman say warm weather target shooters are increasingly leaving behind heaps of shell casings and, in some instances, live cartridges.
"It is a problem," U.S. Forest Service ranger John Strojan said as he sat near someone's favorite shooting spot. "I don't know how much time and resource we spend picking up areas like this."
Empty ammo boxes had been tossed on the ground. A few live rounds were mingled among the spent cartridges. Soda cans hanging on tree limbs had been riddled by bullets.
Strojan said people risk citations for leaving such messes behind.
"If you target shoot, and you leave your targets, litter, bottles, shotgun casings, you are violating a regulation from a litter standpoint," he said.
Strojan said the Forest Service has opened four shooting ranges in the Daniel Boone National Forest to give people safe places to shoot their guns. He said people too often drive in the forest, park on a ridge top, set up soda cans, and start shooting, without regard to what or who may be in the background.
"We have people who shoot in areas that they think are safe, but quite often they're not safe," Strojan said.
Under federal regulations, target practice is not restricted to shooting ranges. But Strojan said shooting is banned in places such as campgrounds and picnic areas. People also are not permitted to shoot across roads.
Perrin de Jong, head of the environmental group Kentucky Heartwood an avid hiker in the Daniel Boone, said he has learned firsthand that shooters aren't always as careful as they should be. He said he has heard bullets whiz through the air as he walked in the woods.
"It's definitely a dangerous situation for anybody," he said. "I have definitely been in life-threatening situations because of someone out there shooting and didn't realize were out there."
De Jong said that's one reason why building service roads through the interior of the forest is a bad idea.
"You're inviting people to come in their vehicles and do things like use the woods for target practice or for setting woods on fire," he said. "Our over-bloated road system in the Daniel Boone National Forest creates a lot of problems."
Forest Service crews who were burning ground clutter on about 2,000 acres of the Daniel Boone on Monday heard two blasts, the result of either fire reaching bullets or aerosol cans dropped by people who go into the forest to "huff" the contents. Either can result in a small explosion.
Strojan said his message to people who use the forest for target practice is simple. Shoot toward a hillside that can stop the bullets. Make sure no one is hiking in the direction the shots are being fired. And pick up the spent cartridges.
"Take some pride in the national forest," he said. "Take some responsibility."