Arizona Game and Fish acquires 160-acre site for long-awaited Northern Arizona Shooting Range
PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Commission finalized the purchase of the 160-acre Foster Ranch property in Coconino County for the future site of the Northern Arizona Shooting Range.
“This is a historic moment for a project that has spanned nearly 15 years,” said Game and Fish Commission Chair Jennifer Martin. “After evaluating nearly 50 properties, Foster Ranch was the best choice that meets our objectives for a public shooting range in the Flagstaff area.”
A public survey was used to shape the objectives of the shooting range, the top three concerns were 1.) to be located within 30 minutes from downtown Flagstaff; 2.) sized for a local range with potential to expand to regional range; 3.) and the ability to be operational by 2013 (3-5 years).
Northern Arizona residents have been without a rifle and pistol shooting range since 1968. In 1994, closures of the local shotgun and archery ranges resulted in one of Arizona’s largest communities being without a designated place for recreational shooting.
Surrounded by the Coconino National Forest, the property is located approximately 15 miles east of Flagstaff and 5 miles south of the Town of Winona. The property is in the mid 6000 foot elevation, consisting of pinion-juniper and high country ground cover.
“The Coconino National Forest is looking forward to a safe, designated area for recreational shooting – especially one that offers youth development and hunter education programs,” said Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart. “We are prepared to work cooperatively with Game and Fish in the development of this long-needed range.”
The $1.1 million property purchase came at no expense to taxpayers, state or local.
Because the Game and Fish receives no tax dollars from the state’s general fund and operates under a user-pay, user-benefit model, the property was purchased and will be developed through the sale of licenses to hunters and anglers.
A $3 surcharge is imposed on hunting and fishing licenses to acquire, construct, renovate, or improve Game and Fish facilities. The fund for the development of the Northern Arizona Shooting Range was established beginning in 2001.
Developing the range
At this stage, no detailed site plans have been made. Properties for shooting ranges are selected based on key macro-level considerations, such as size, layout, safety, access, drainage, utilities, and other development considerations.
Before any development of the property can take place, there is a multitude of logistical planning required, including an environmental compliance checklist; coordination with the Coconino National Forest and Coconino County; developing a scope of work and timelines; and providing the public opportunities to give input to assist in the development of this local range.
Other factors such as funding, process time for of environmental compliances, resources, and weather will dictate a phased-in development approach of the Northern Arizona Shooting Range over the next three years and beyond.
The public is invited to an informal open house to provide input on the range development plan on Thursday, Sept. 23 from 3-8 p.m. at the Game and Fish Flagstaff regional office at 3500 S. Lake Mary Road. For those who are unable to attend the open house, the same materials and a way to submit your comments will be made available online at the same time at www.azgfd.gov/nazsr.
On display will be a very early conceptual site design, preliminary timelines for development, and an opportunity to provide comments. While no formal presentation will be made, key Game and Fish personnel and representatives from the Coconino National Forest will be available to provide information and answer questions.
“Given all the supportive comments from residents, shooting clubs, past commissioners, along with the Coconino National Forest supervisor at the May public meeting, I’m confident that we are on the right track to meeting the needs of the shooting community and reduce wildcat shooting around Flagstaff,” added Martin.
History and information
A local or community range is typically 60-80+ acres in size, and provides a multi-purpose facility. Some features of a local range may include a 100-yard rifle sight-in and pistol range, a small bore / hunter education range, shotgun / clay target shooting (trap, skeet and/or sporting clays in some cases), and archery venues.
Game and Fish has spent the last 15 years seeking to establish a shooting range in northern Arizona. Some of the past key events include:
- 1995-2003 – Attempted Bellemont land exchange with Coconino National Forest (CNF).
- 2005-2009 – Willard Springs site identified as alternate for land exchange with CNF.
- March 2009 – Begin 90-day re-evaluation of alternate sites due to 2019 estimation to complete land exchange for Willard Springs property.
- May 2009 – Criteria for eliminating potential alternate sites identified based on public survey: located within 30 minutes from downtown Flagstaff; sized for a local range with potential to expand to regional range; and the ability to be operational by 2013.
- June 2009 – Three sites recommended, all require land exchange with CNF.
- Sept. 2009 – Foster Ranch added to recommended properties for consideration.
- Dec. 2009 – Site selection reduced to three properties, including Foster Ranch.
- May. 2010 – Commission approves purchase of Foster Ranch.
- July 2010 – Purchase of property completed.