The U.S. Forest Service will extend a temporary ban on unregulated target shooting in Los Padres National Forest after a 2018 lawsuit challenged the agency’s management of target shooting.

The ban is part of an agreement reached last week between the Forest Service and Los Padres ForestWatch, the Santa-Barbara-based conservation group that filed the lawsuit in Aug. 2018.

The U.S. District Court formally approved the agreement on April 17, but the temporary ban on unmanaged target shooting in the forest was first implemented in February in response to the litigation.

The agreement between the two groups effectively resolved the lawsuit and created a plan to address the impacts of target shooting in the forest. Target shooting causes water and soil contamination, wildfires, vandalism and harm to endangered species, according to the Los Padres ForestWatch.

“Target shooting is a massive problem in the forest,” said Maggie Hall, the staff attorney at the Environmental Defense Center, which represented Los Padres ForestWatch in the legal proceedings. “There are hundreds of locations where it’s known to occur, and with it comes serious threats to public safety and health.”

Under the agreement, the Forest Service will enforce the temporary ban as well as complete a study of the area, and consult with federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce impacts of target shooting on endangered wildlife, including the California condor, California red-legged frog, southern mountain buckwheat, and Kern mallow.

Hall said gun lead left behind after target shooting can poison wildlife and has been found near California condor habitats in the forest.

Legal hunting with a license will not be affected by the ban, and target shooting is still permitted at the Ojai Valley Gun Club and Winchester Canyon Gun Club.

ForestWatch filed its lawsuit in August 2018 after the Forest Service refused to implement a ban on target shooting that the agency adopted in 2005. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and aimed to require implementation of the ban and provide protection of endangered species in the forest.  

“This agreement will make our public lands cleaner and safer places for everyone to visit … and will allow shooters to continue practicing their marksmanship at designated, well-managed sites,” said Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch executive director, in a press release.

The Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests in Southern California have also prohibited target shooting outside of formally designated shooting sites for decades.

Noozhawk contributing writer Maura Fox can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, and connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.