SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New shooting ranges could be coming to the Santa Fe County area soon. For four years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), New Mexico Game and Fish, and the County of Santa Fe have been meeting in focus groups with locals, non-profits, and other organizations to try to develop a plan amid growing concerns about the problems people are causing at makeshift shooting ranges on public lands.

Trash, liquor bottles, spent shell casings, and even couches and chairs litter one such makeshift shooting range in the backcountry off of County Road 56C southwest of Santa Fe. “Well, this is some kind of open shooting gallery range, if you want to call it that, that’s just here. It’s not maintained. The roads are not maintained that much either,” says Joel Pearson, who was spending the morning shooting in the area.

It’s a hidden spot for gun enthusiasts, seemingly in the middle of the desert. “Signage as far as directions doesn’t really exist unless you know where you’re going out here,” Pearson says. This is one of three spots that have landed on the radar of the Bureau of Land Management within Santa Fe County. Issues of public safety, the growing trash and noise problem, and threats to the land and neighboring residential areas have prompted the Bureau to look for other options.

Story continues below:

“So the plan is to try to relocate shooting that is problematic and to actually have the BLM design and build up to three target shooting ranges on public lands,” says Pamela Mathis, field manager for the Taos Field Office of the BLM. So far, they have proposals for two of the three sites: one near the Camel Tracks area and the other near the Buckman-Alamo area. The third possibility, near the San Pedro Mountains, does not yet have a specific site.

“Through these focus groups and the input of many organizations that also included pueblos and tribal leaders, the group came up with some recommendations to relocate some target shooting areas that are adjacent to two areas where there are homeowners associations and a lot of homes. In the third location, Camel Tracks, there are not homes adjacent but there are some other operations such as power lines, a horsing operation, a mining operation, and we have situations where target shooters unbeknownst to one another are shooting towards one another and/or towards hikers or bikers or residents,” Mathis says.

People at one makeshift range tell News 13 they’d be on board with the idea of a sanctioned shooting area—especially if it meant less trash being left behind. “There’s a lot of mess out here. It’s unfortunate but if somebody, like you mentioned, [is] looking to make some kind of a permanent range of some kind, that would be great,” Pearson says.

“We are starting to receive a little bit of feedback that people are wanting a maintained site, they are wanting a patrolled site. They don’t want litter. They may or may not back user fees. We also don’t yet understand what entity would be the best management. It could be a concessionaire, it could be a pueblo, it could be a combination of all sources,” Mathis says.

Pearson says taking care of the trash problem is a step in the direction; however, as for the noise complaints: “I don’t know how to deal with that…I mean that’s what it’s about here.”

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public input through the end of October about user fees, locations, and management of the proposed new locations. Mathis says they hope they’ll be able to build these new recreational shooting areas within a year.