NRA Public Range Initiative
By Brian D. Hyder
As NRA fights to protect our Second Amendment rights, it also works diligently to keep our shooting traditions prevailing through time. Thanks to a new NRA range grant initiative, intended to encourage the development of new public ranges, new shooting facilities will be sprouting up across the country to give recreational and competitive shooters, hunters, and law enforcement officers new opportunities to sharpen their skills.
Constructing new ranges, specifically public ranges, means providing generations with free places to learn, train, and develop as shooters. More importantly though, it gives training programs more platforms to reach and educate more people in the firearm community.
The new Public Range Initiative was launched in 2009 by NRA’s Field Operations Division to offer matching funds to state and federal agencies or city and county governments who might be interested in developing shooting ranges on their property.
The proposal was approved by the NRA Board of Directors and $150,000 was allocated for the first year. The deal – NRA will offer up to $25,000 as a grant to be matched on a 50-50 basis with cooperating agencies. In some cases, state wildlife agencies can match funds through their Pittman-Robertson grants, a government trust fund generated by excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition set aside strictly to go back into state and local organizations to increase game populations, expand habitats, and train hunters. In such cases, the NRA would match 25% to 75%.
The first agreement was signed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, a leader in its own right in the effort to recruit and retain hunters in South Carolina and the same department that created the “Take One-Make One” program several years ago, which currently serves as the model for hunter mentoring programs nationwide. Director John Frampton and Assistant Director Emily Cope realized the importance of providing the public with safe places to shoot and as a result of their efforts with the NRA Range Initiative program, three new ranges are on the drawing boards today for South Carolina in Belfast, Marsh, and Woodbury.
Also in 2009, a range was approved for the Cedar Creek Wildlife Management area within the U.S. Forest Service Oconee Ranger District in Georgia. Construction for the range is slated to begin this fall. But West Virginia leads the way in projects approved in 2009. The NRA partnered with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to build two ranges. A range on the Chief Logan Wildlife Management Area in Logan County was the first range to be completed under the new program and a dedication ceremony was recently held at the range on September 8th. Only steps behind, the other new range in West Virginia is also scheduled to launch under the new program in September at the Kumbrabow State Forest.
West Virginia’s newly completed range at Chief Logan is typical of the ranges that will be built by the range initiative program. It includes eight shooting benches with covered shelter, target frames placed at 25, 50 and 100 yards to accommodate both pistol and rifle shooters, parking spaces and shooting benches designed especially for handicap shooters, and is open to the public free of charge.
Building new ranges takes more than grant money. The Chief Logan range was constructed with the aid of other project partners like the local area chapter of the NWTF, which donated $1,000, Mine Lifeline, LLC, which assisted with road construction, Jaunt, Inc., which provided much needed equipment and stone, the Logan County Mine Services, which supplied hydro-seeding, and West Virginia Paving, which administered with road construction support.
The development of this shooting range in Logan County is an excellent example of cooperation among local businesses, local conservation organizations, the NRA, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to provide area shooters with a safe place to shoot. The idea is spreading too. Nearby, a 3-D archery range will be constructed by the Coalfield Archery Club.
“The sport of hunting is threatened by the lack of safe places to shoot,” said Frank Jezioro, Director of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, who was on hand for the dedication ceremony. “With the continued help of the NRA and others, we will continue to look for more places to build ranges in West Virginia.”
Also present for the dedication was Lieutenant Governor Earl Ray Tomlin who said, “I am proud to take a part in dedicating this outstanding facility. Hunters, recreational and competitive shooters and law enforcement agencies in the area will all benefit from this range. We all appreciate the support of the NRA and other partners in making this range possible.”
The projects of 2009 are only the beginning for the NRA Range Initiative. For 2010, nine more projects have been approved throughout Georgia, Kentucky, Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia, Alaska, Virginia, Vermont, and Idaho. When these projects are completed, it will mean a total of fifteen new public shooting ranges will be available to shooters across the nation.
The NRA has stepped forward to address the lack of public shooting ranges in the country. By offering assistance to public land agencies and municipalities, new opportunities for the shooting public will be available in the near future.