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Irresponsible shooting under fire on Anderson Butte

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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Don Robinson, district chief ranger of law enforcement for the Medford District BLM, gestures to a tree scarred by bullets above homes and a hiking trail in the Anderson Butte area.
BLM may close 11 sites to target shooters

Up on Anderson Butte, a sign offering tips for safe and responsible shooting is torn apart by bullet holes and shotgun blasts.

A sign marking the Griffin Gap Trailhead on the butte is next to an area littered with bullet casings and shotgun shells. The sign is supported by stubby wooden poles and sits so low to the ground it’s hard for hikers to find. Tall posts that once held the sign aloft had to be replaced after they were shot to pieces.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Medford District has tried for years to rein in irresponsible shooting on the mountain south of Medford. Homes are scattered around Anderson Butte and in the Applegate Valley below, and hikers, bikers, horse riders, motorcyclists and ATV riders all use the area.

While many target shooters are using their guns responsibly on Anderson Butte, some are not. They’re shooting at parking areas and vehicle turnouts without adequate backstops. Bullets fly into the forest, out over the valley toward homes or across roads and trails.

"Your average bullet trajectory will carry at least a mile or more,“ Don Robinson, district chief ranger of law enforcement for the Medford District BLM, said as he looked down on homes from a high ridge used by shooters.

The BLM is proposing to close 11 sites on Anderson Butte to recreational target shooting in an attempt to tackle the public safety issues. The closure would last up to two years as the BLM monitors the situation.

Public comments on the proposal are due by Jan. 3, 2022.

The BLM has fielded complaints from neighbors, hikers and others who’ve had bullets whiz by or lodge in houses and vehicles.

Derek, who didn’t want his last name used for fear of retribution, was visiting Anderson Butte on Friday with his family. He lived on the mountain for five years.

“Honestly, one of the big reasons why I moved back into town is I just didn’t want to get killed while I’m sitting in my chair reading a book,” he said.

Derek said about 70% of people who shoot on Anderson Butte do so responsibly, but about 30% don’t.

“They don’t care about shooting safely. They don’t care about having an appropriate backstop. They don’t care about cleaning up their mess when they’re done. They don’t care if someone gets killed. They just don’t care,” he said.

Derek said bullets once flew through the kitchen door of his neighbors’ house, missing them by inches. They still have a bullet lodged in the framework of their house. He said he had a near-miss himself.

“I was actually on my own property cutting wood and I had bullets flying over my head because there was a turnout just a little bit above where my property was. And there’s no backstop there. It’s just a vehicle turnout and people would set up some paper targets and cans in a tree and they were shooting a .45. It missed my head really by just a few feet,” he said.

He said some people dump trash like old TVs on Anderson Butte, then shoot up the trash, leaving an even bigger mess behind.

Derek said he’s aware that the BLM is proposing to close 11 sites to shooting on Anderson Butte. He said none of those areas are safe for shooting.

According to the BLM, closing the 11 sites to shooting would affect 50 acres out of the 10,000-acre area.

Brian Long, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM Medford District, said the Anderson Butte area is home to 41 miles of trails and 11 trailheads. People are surprised and afraid when they arrive at a trailhead for a hike, run or horseback ride, then see others shooting right next to the trail, and even across the trail.

Ripped up trees show that bullets are flying into the forest next to the Griffin Gap Trailhead, in the direction where people hike.

At a high vantage point that overlooks the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, shooters have blasted away one-third of a tall tree’s trunk. There is no embankment or gravel pile behind the tree to act as a backstop, only the trail and houses below.

At various spots around Anderson Butte, the BLM has set up sturdy metal signs warning shooters about houses and hikers in the area. Those signs bear bullet holes.

On the roads going up to BLM land on Anderson Butte, private property owners have plastered their fences and gates with “No shooting,” “Safety zone,” “People live here” and “No trespassing” signs in a bid to protect themselves and their families.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Private property owners have put up signs warning people not to shoot near their homes on Anderson Butte south of Medford.

If the BLM does close the 11 sites to shooting, it would post signs telling people about the closures. BLM law enforcement as well as the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office patrols the area and could give out $200 citations for illegal shooting, Robinson said.

Fines could be higher for repeat offenders, he said.

Derek said he doesn’t know if enforcement efforts would curb the problem of unsafe shooting on Anderson Butte. He’s seen people shooting at public trailheads, even though trail signs clearly show hikers and others could be in the area, too.

“If someone was walking, they’d be dead, or if someone was riding, they’d be dead,” Derek said.

To comment on the proposed temporary closure of 11 sites to shooting by Jan. 3, visit eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/123432/510 or email BLM_OR_AFO_Anderson_Butte_SP@blm.gov.

Before including your address, phone number, email address or other personal identifying information in any comment, be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time, the BLM said.

While you can ask to have your personal identifying information withheld from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.