USA — As a long-time wildland firefighter, and a Montana taxpayer, I’m puzzled and a little upset by the inaction of the Montana House Judiciary Committee regarding House Bill 160, which would prohibit the use of “exploding targets” on state lands.
Exploding targets are a proven cause of wildfires: the U.S. Forest Service has documented at least 16 wildfires started by exploding targets, with suppression costs of $33 million taxpayer dollars. Last summer’s wildfire in the Three Mile Wildlife Management Area outside of Stevensville cost $94,000 to suppress. Another “exploding target” wildfire in northwestern Montana in 2012 cast nearly $900,000 to suppress.
Besides the resource damage caused by these exploding targets, there is also the risk of personal injury or death to both citizens and firefighters. Individuals have suffered serious injuries from exploding targets in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and all firefighters are at risk anytime they take action on a wildfire during hot and dry conditions. This bill seems like one small step to help reduce the chance for a wildfire ignition and injuries/deaths.
Much of the U.S. Forest Service land in the western states currently bans the use of exploding targets, including those lands here in Montana. In addition, states such as Idaho, Oregon and Washington have bans in place for state lands. It’s very similar to the existing bans on fireworks that are in place.
The HB 160 ban on exploding targets is not a Second Amendment or gun-rights issue. It does not even restrict the use of exploding targets on private lands, although I’m sure that large ranches and timber owners like Plum Creek would be happy to reduce wildfire risks on their lands. It simply bans their use on state-owned lands that are protected from wildfire with our tax dollars.
HB 160, to restrict the use of exploding targets on state lands, was never voted on by the House Judiciary Committee: it was “tabled,” meaning no action was taken the ultimate “kiss of death” for a proposed bill. Why can’t our legislators stand up and vote on issues like this that involve natural resource protection, human safety and expenditure of taxpayer dollars for fire suppression?
Contact your representative in the House and ask them to bring HB 160 to a vote before the entire House: let’s see what these folks really believe in. Actions and votes speak louder than political words!