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In a rare move, the United States Forest Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has made a decision that effective immediately, that it would no longer allow the discharge of firearms on Forest service land as part of its move to stage II fire restrictions. This week it notified people with U.S. Forest Service event organizer permits that it would no longer allow the discharge of firearms on Forest service land.

Discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun will not be permitted. There are no exemptions for hunting,” said the written notification by United States Forest Service Recreation Special Uses Administrator Tommy Skaja.

The formal move to move to Stage II fire restrictions upon which this special order is based, was signed June 13, by Forest and Grassland Supervisor Erin Connelly, of the Pueblo office, responsible for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. In addition to the heavily-reported restrictions being issued by counties, municipalities and other public lands, the Forest Service intentionally included the “discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun” as a restricted activity.

The move to Stage II fire restrictions, is specifically related to the high fire danger and the long term weather outlook. The public can apply for an exemption to discharge a fire arm, but that it must be done in writing, and including what he called “an appropriate mitigation plan.”

The fire arms restriction is a new move that surprised the Salida Ranger office, according to Skaja, who wrote “the last time stage II fire restrictions were instituted, there was no prohibition for shooting so I didn’t expect this to happen..”

Violations of stage II prohibitions on USDA land are severe, punishable as a class B misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of up to six months.