A temporary set of restrictions on target shooting at the Candy Rock Quarry in the Calaveras Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest is set to expire next month.
In an open letter distributed Wednesday, Calaveras District Ranger Teresa McClung writes that the two-year provisional rules that limit the hours weapons can be fired at the quarry - infamously within earshot of Hathaway Pines subdivisions - will be renewed.
McClung said the letter was prompted by numerous recent inquiries from the public.
In a February 2012 open house forum at Independence Hall in Arnold, the U.S. Forest Service revealed the permanent regulations it hopes to introduce in an effort to reach compromise between recreational shooters and nearby residents.
The opposing camps have clashed repeatedly in recent years regarding who got to the area first and who is trampling on whose rights.
In addition to making permanent the permitted shooting hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, those rules would prohibit the use of explosives and firearms larger than .50-caliber, as well as trap and skeet shooting in the area.
Last year, Forest Service officials said they expected a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed regulations to be complete by spring 2013. McClung's letter states that has been pushed back to September.
"Our (National Environmental Policy Act) process has taken an extended amount of time to conduct due to the loss of key staff, and due to our underestimation of the complexity of the analysis," she said.
McClung also used the letter as a reminder that target shooting is legal in the forest, with the exception of areas in which it is specifically prohibited by "forest order," including within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area or other occupied area, and across forest roads and waterways.
"If at any time the quarry is occupied by people involved in other activities, it cannot be used for target shooting," she wrote. "There are no designated shooting ranges on the Stanislaus National Forest."
Forest Road 4N73Y, also known as Candy Rock Quarry Road, remains seasonally closed to motorized vehicle traffic until April 16, weather permitting. Target shooting is still allowed at the quarry while the road is closed, but users have to walk or bicycle up to the quarry.
The situation at Candy Rock has created confusion about law enforcement jurisdiction in the national forest, McClung noted.
"Forest Service law enforcement officers can enforce Federal laws and Forest Orders in Calaveras County. Forest Service law enforcement officers cannot enforce State laws in Calaveras County," she wrote. "Currently, Calaveras County Sheriff's officers cannot enforce Forest Orders. Forest Service law enforcement officers frequently work with County Sheriff's officers on enforcement in the National Forest."
McClung said the restrictions on shooting hours at the quarry has resulted in shooting spreading out to other areas of the forest. The Forest Service has investigated complaints and found that sometimes those shooters are recreating in appropriate areas and others are not.
"The displacement of target shooters from Candy Rock Quarry to other areas of the
National Forest is a result of restrictions … The Forest Supervisor (Susan Skalski) will take that into consideration in making a final decision regarding whether or not to continue to allow target shooting at Candy Rock Quarry," McClung said