Protecting Sonoran Desert National Monument From Irresponsible Shooting

The Sonoran Desert National Monument in southwest Arizona is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the North American desert. The area is home to large saguaro cactus forest communities and three distinct wilderness mountain ranges that provide excellent habitat for a wide range of wildlife species including big horn sheep, endangered Sonoran pronghorn, and desert tortoise. The monument also contains significant archeological and historic sites.

BLM has evaluated whether or not to authorize recreational target shooting in the monument, determining that 100% of the monument was unsuitable for recreational target shooting. For yet to be fully understood reasons (the decision was made in September 2012 during the election and intense pressure from NRA), when issuing the new management plan for the Monument, BLM went counter to its recommendations and opened the whole Monument to recreational target shooting. Now, people can drive and/or hike and target shoot wherever they would like in the Monument, even near popular hiking trails and within the three designated wilderness areas.

We filed suit and the Arizona District Court in Phoenix ordered the BLM to re-examine its decision to allow target shooting throughout Sonoran Desert National Monument. The court found that the BLM arbitrarily ignored its own study showing that target shooting could not be safely and appropriately conducted in the monument, given the patterns and volume of visitors to the monument and number and variety of historic and natural objects found across this biologically and archaeologically dynamic landscape.