HORSESHOE BEND, Idaho — A lot of people live in Idaho for the quality of life, access to the outdoors, and greater freedom. For many, that freedom comes in the form of carrying and shooting guns. However, people who live near the planned shooting range near Avimor feel that freedom infringes on their quality of life, and threatens people’s safety.
A month ago, KTVB reported on a different shooting range proposed in the foothills near Eagle. This one is farther north and further along - but sparking similar backlash.
Many say the wildlife, open space and ability to build a better life for their families draw them to put down roots in this region of Idaho.
“I've lived out here in this specific area about 24 years,” said Susan Holland, a resident of Horseshoe Bend. “I love the peace and quiet.”
“Freedom, bliss, especially on beautiful days,” said Ryan Haskins, who also lives in Horseshoe Bend. “Our whole family moved here, actually; this is gonna be a family compound.”
The Haskins moved to the Summit Ridge area in Horseshoe Bend a few years ago to escape California’s regulations and year-round fire seasons. However, Haskins is concerned about wildfires in his backyard again - but this time, from the shooting range going in less than a mile and a half from his home. It's planned for Pearl Road in Boise County, west of Highway 55.
“This just raises nothing but red flags to me,” said Haskins.
Haskins, a former wildland firefighter, and dozens of his neighbors fear that people firing in the Crowfoot Shooting Range could create sparks in Idaho’s fire-prone high desert.
“The fuels up here and elevation when you jump up over 4,000 feet, you're introducing low humidity and low humidity recovery at night,” Haskins said. “The prevailing winds coming off that range are coming out of South/Southeast and will push [fire] straight toward us.”
“I don't mind a gun range. I am pro-gun,” added Horseshoe Bend’s Fire Chief Jeff Johnson. However, Johnson is opposed to the Crowfoot Shooting Range. He feels that the group, mostly people who live in Avimor, do not have a solid plan to make the range safe.
“That's perfect for wildfire,” Johnson said. “You could take just about any round and you can shoot a rock with it and it could potentially cause a spark.”
Boise County Planning and Zoning (P & Z) approved the Crowfoot Range non-profit group's conditional use permit (CUP). It would go in the ridge over from the Haskins' property, on 40 acres of donated Avimor land. This area is historically a popular place for illegal shooting.
“We spent an entire summer researching Avimor's development plans,” said Bill Godfrey, the president of Crowfoot Range and a resident of Avimor, “And this particular property is the safest. It's the farthest away from homes and Avimor was willing to lease it to us.”
Eventually, Avimor’s managing partner Dan Richter says they plan to build homes close by - closer than the Summit Ridge neighbors.
“You look at all the cartridges, you know, they leave all this brass laying around,” Richter said. “All kinds of hypodermic needles. All the trash.”
Part of the driving force behind this plan, which is four years in the making, has been to control trespassing, trash and target shooting on their land along Pearl Road.
“The problem was not so much the shooting - although we wanted to keep shooting in safe places - it was all the garbage they left behind,” Richter told 7Investigates. “When you've got people all along this road shooting into rocks and stuff then there's a real significant fire danger.”
Because Avimor is in its coverage area, Eagle Fire District laid out fire mitigation conditions that Crowfoot Range must meet. Other agencies have also placed requirements on the range: no metal targets (except for in the long range), structures above the bay, fire line dug around the property, fencing, road improvements, and mostly rock ground instead of brush.
“There will be no vegetation. It's a rock range,” Godfrey said. “So, there's not going to be fire within our property."
'Nothing but red flags' conflict over Crowfoot shooting range in Boise County
Along with creating an organized location to shoot, Godfrey and his friends also want to develop a place for 4H kids to train.
“Eagle 4H, their president, wanted a closer area that they could train their kids for hunter safety and gun safety and that type of thing,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey said there will be 71 parking spaces and 47 shooting lanes in four bays. With a membership, the public can use the range from one hour after dawn to one hour before dusk, or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Crowfoot will have berms along their lanes and muzzles will aim away from Horseshoe Bend. While guns point toward the hills south of town, they point toward Highway 55.
“We get somebody who's deciding they're gonna lay down prone and they shoot as they're laying down," Johnson said, "They can bump it and it's up and over that hill, now it's on 55.”
Crowfoot cannot build a berm tall enough to completely block Pearl Road, which is practically parallel to the long range.
“What's the difference between that and shooting on the side of the road?” Haskins asked. “So all you're doing is attracting more people, and more of a problem.”
Boise County P & Z is not requiring Crowfoot to have a range master to oversee any shooting.
“An organized range polices itself,” Godfrey said. “Members have a vested interest.”
Godfrey said he plans to serve as the rangemaster once he retires. Once they get more members they’ll talk about hiring one.
Disturbing their bliss, neighbors are also concerned about the increased noise the shooting range will attract.
"I'm very frustrated,” Holland said. “I can hear the shooting on Pearl Road very clearly at my house.”
Sound studies that Crowfoot had done found that people who live over the ridge from Crowfoot Range - even a couple miles away over a couple ridges - will hear gunshots.
Johnson also expects more accidents to occur in the area as more cars turn on and off high-speed Highway 55.
“There's a lot of things that I think are lacking at this point,” Johnson added.
Neighbors have filed an appeal, which Boise County Commissioners will hear soon. Because the county's servers have been down, the process is stalled at the moment.
“It's more than just ‘I don't want a shooting range'. It has a real economic impact,” Holland added.
Godfrey told 7Investigates they can't afford to push dirt until the CUP appeal hearing.
“We've mitigated our hours, we've mitigated our days, we've done everything we can do. We are going to try and do everything we can to be good neighbors, number one, and, number two, we're going to meet the requirements that Boise County puts on us," he said.
People who live in Avimor can currently shoot in a small gravel pit, but Avimor is closing it soon because they need the land. Richter says they do not receive any complaints from Avimor residents who live nearby.
There is a clay shooting range up the road from the future Crowfoot site, from which Summit Ridge area residents can very clearly hear gun shots when the range is in use.
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