A U.S. District Court judge has approved an agreement, reached on April 17, putting a temporary ban on target shooting in the forest. The agreement also requires that the Forest Service conduct studies on the impacts target shooting has on plants and animals. This decision came about after a 2018 lawsuit filed by Los Padres ForestWatch, which is represented by Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center and Portland, Oregon’s Earthrise Law Center. It called for the Forest Service to act on the permanent ban on unmanaged target shooting that it approved in 2005. The Angeles, Cleveland, and San Bernardino national forests already have similar bans. Sanctioned target shooting at Ojai Valley Gun Club and Winchester Canyon Gun Club remains permitted, as does licensed, legal hunting.
In 2016, Los Padres ForestWatch released a report that quantified the impact of unrestricted target shooting. Among the report’s findings were trash, lead contamination from littered ammunition, and wildfires. Between 1992 and 2016, 53 wildfires were ignited as a result of target shooting, according to the U.S. Forest Service. As of 2016, the most frequented spot for target shooting in the forest falls within the Santa Barbara Ranger District, at Arroyo Burro. Called the “Glass Factory,” the area is full of shooting target litter and is the source of the most “shooting-caused wildfires” in the entire forest. Despite biannual volunteer cleanup efforts, it is reported about 20 tons of trash pile up quarterly.
Violators of the ban on unmanaged shooting may face fines as high as $5,000 and potential jail time. Visitors who come across illegal target shooting can report the incident to 3-1-1, which will relay the information to law enforcement and the Forest Service.