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SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners has restricted all recreational shooting on the Buffalo Run Walk-In area east of Sheridan.
The closure was effective June 6 and will remain in effect unless officially amended.
Located approximately 10 miles east of Sheridan on Highway 14 toward Ucross, Buffalo Run covers approximately 7,500 acres, or 12 square miles, of land on the east side of the highway. It was a popular target shooting area and there is debate on whether the entire area should have been restricted or just portions nearest to the Statoil Educated Guess 11-1H well located on the site.
“The area has historically seen a lot of recreational use. A lot of it has been reasonable and thoughtful, but in the instance with the recreational shooting, we had Statoil drilling a well there and bullets started to fly too close,” the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners Director Ryan Lance said. “The grazing lessee also sent notes saying they had been riding on the leased area and they had experienced circumstances where they didn’t feel overly safe. The board, after hearing this, immediately determined it would close Buffalo Run to recreational shooting.”
Jason Crowder, assistant director of the state trust land management division, said irresponsible shooting had resulted in bullets hitting nearby houses.
He said the area has historically been abused and that the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners closed Buffalo Run to motorized access in 2003 after a car was lit on fire on top of a hill and pushed into a nearby reservoir. Other issues involved people dumping stoves and refrigerators on the land and shooting them.
“The board has no patience for safety issues like that. The potential for bullets hitting the drilling area was extremely high,” Crowder said.
The area remains open to hiking, horseback riding, hunting (with a license) and other recreational use, but the Sheridan County Sheriff’s office and the regional office of Wyoming Game and Fish have the authority to punish shooting violations under Wyoming Statute 36-2-107, Lieutenant Mark Conrad said.
“We’ll enforce it the best we can. Hopefully, given a few months, it will level out and become the norm there,” Conrad said. “I think the way it’s played out is totally appropriate. The state was in a situation where it needed to make a decision.”
Conrad said the Sheriff’s office received four to five calls per year regarding issues with noise and shooting at Buffalo Run. The office hasn’t received any calls since the restriction went into effect, but Conrad does expect there will be a few until people get used to the change. Recently, most calls and letters were regarding Tannerite, an exploding target that produced an excessive amount of noise, Conrad said.
Adjacent landowner Terry Mines was part of the campaign to get concerned users and nearby landowners to write letters to the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners asking for the area to be closed to recreational shooting. He said he understands people sighting rifles at the area but was distressed by the destructive and malicious gun use common to Buffalo Run.
Mines said several fence posts at the parking lot were shot, which was documented with photographs submitted to the board of land commissioners. He also said he didnt’ feel safe when riding horses across the area to check on his cattle that graze on land beyond Buffalo Run.
“I’m not saying it shouldn’t be used. I just don’t think it should be monopolized by shooters. It’s frustrating when you get home from work at night and just want to enjoy some quiet time and it sounds like a war zone across from you,” Mines said.
The Public Land Users Committee has been working with the Sheridan County Commissioners to ask the state board of land commissioners to reconsider the full restriction on recreational shooting.
Bill Adsit, secretary of the public land users committee, said the committee understands closing the area near the well but not the entire area.
“If you have 10,000 acres to ride in, the fact that someone is shooting two miles from you should not be a concern,” Adsit said. “We do recognize that there may need to be more than one access point.”
The Public Land Users Committee works to be a go-between to maintain public access to land while recognizing the rights and concerns of grazing lessees and landowners, Adsit said.