Contact(s): Bob Manwell, DNR communications, 608-275-3317
By Mark Aquino, Department of Natural Resources, South Central Region Director
In December 2012, the Natural Resources Board approved a master plan for state wildlife, fishery and natural areas in Columbia County. The plan was developed over a two year period and provided the public with multiple opportunities for comment and input. In addition to land management objectives the plan also addressed recreational needs including the need for a public shooting range in Columbia County:
"There is significant demand for a public shooting range in Columbia County. Several parking lots at the Swan Lake WA (wildlife area) and French Creek WA are heavily used for recreational shooting and target practice by locals and out-of-county individuals. These activities have generated concerns about public safety, quality of life (e.g., noise and litter) and inquiries by local elected officials and law enforcement." (Columbia County master plan, pg.45)
DNR wildlife and fisheries staff familiar with DNR lands in Columbia County have identified seven state-owned sites potentially suitable for development of a public shooting range. An ad hoc committee representing county and local governments, conservation groups and business has been formed to study and recommend one of the sites to the department for development. Casey Krueger, our south central region conservation warden supervisor, is our liaison to the committee, which held its first meeting on Jan. 22.
The best recreational shooting is found at established shooting ranges designed to provide easy access, adequate parking, permanent shooting lines and stations, bullet backstops and side berms. All of these features are elements of a safe and enjoyable shooting opportunity. While target shooting is not illegal at either Swan Lake or French Creek, neither property has a facility designed for this purpose.
It is part of our mission to provide a healthy, sustainable environment and a full range of outdoor opportunities for all Wisconsin residents. User safety is at the top of the list for all the activities we manage or provide. This is as true for our waters and campgrounds as it is for our hunting grounds. Roughly one million Wisconsin residents say they participate in some form of hunting according to our most recent Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. In addition to hunting, many of these residents also participate in non-hunting shooting sports.
The recently remodeled public range at Yellowstone Wildlife Area in Lafayette County is a great example of a properly designed shooting range. Yellowstone is averaging 35 vehicles per day in the parking area indicating a strong demand for local ranges in the southern part of the state. We believe that a properly designed facility would be equally popular in Columbia County and look forward to working with the ad hoc committee and area residents to provide that opportunity.
We appreciate the willingness of the committee members to roll-up their sleeves, study the potential sites, provide invaluable local perspective and ultimately recommend a site for development. We look forward to working with the committee on this project and will provide the public with regular updates on project progress.
DNR South Central Region Director