NSSF is the trade association for America's firearms industry.
Our mission: To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.
NSSF is the trade association for America's firearms industry.
Our mission: To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.
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Eyeing a Super Model

The Oregon Association of Shooting Ranges may not star on the runway, but it is a shining example of statewide range unity

By Brian McCombie

Call it a "Tale of Two Shooting Ranges"--specifically, two shooting ranges in Oregon that recently faced the all-too- common problem of neighbors making environmental charges against the ranges. In Oregon, as in many states, once the charges were made, a regulatory agency had to investigate.

One range sought the help of the Oregon Association of Shooting Ranges, or OASR. The other rejected that help. The outcomes? Night and day.

In the case of the first range, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent out an investigator who found no problems. Then, DEQ hit the range with a $3,000 bill for said investigation.

"It's a pretty small club, and it didn't have $3,000," says George Pitts, who helped co-found OASR in 2003 and today serves as its chairman. "So we went in and talked with DEQ, and mitigated the bill. We got it down to $1,000, and the club was glad to pay that and get this issue settled."

The other shooting range took the position that it was there before the neighbors, so the range was protected. OASR offered to act as an intermediary with state regulators. OASR officers also suggested various ways the club could alter operations and, in so doing, better defend it from the complaints.

"They decided they didn't need any help, that they'd go it alone," says Tim Pitzer, OASR co-founder. "Well, today? Alone only gets you so far."

In the legal battle that followed, this range lost several acres of its property and got socked with hefty legal bills. Though some limited shooting still occurs there, the facility is a shadow of what it once was.

Understanding that state ranges were increasingly under attack, Pitts and Pitzer came together over a decade ago to develop a state shooting range association. At the time, Pitts was vice president of the Tualatin Valley Sportsmen's Club, Pitzer the vice president of the Oregon State Shooting Association (a title he still holds today, as well as being a member of OASR). They met with other range managers across the state, getting their ideas about how a state association might function.

"At the time," Pitzer remembers, "the anti-gunners were going after shooting ranges in the state. They were attacking ranges on development and environmental issues, and trying to use state regulatory agencies to shut them down."

OASR was formally organized late in 2003. A nonprofit 501(c) (4), OASR has a traditional organizational structure, with a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary and treasurer. An executive board helps keep OASR focused on its mission: to protect and promote Oregon's shooting ranges, to educate range owners and operators and to provide the necessary resources when ranges find themselves under attack.

OASR meets formally four times a year. Meetings take places at various ranges, as well as at Oregon Fish and Wildlife headquarters in Salem. OASR dues are based on a shooting club or range's total membership, with dues levied at $2 per range member.

OASR began with just eight shooting ranges, but that quickly increased to a dozen. Today, OASR represents 24 ranges and shooting clubs, and four additional ranges have recently applied. In total, the OASR ranges and clubs represent more than 13,000 members, and those numbers are a source of real strength.

"When we go into a situation, maybe a meeting with a state regulatory agency, we go in representing over 13,000 members of our association ranges," says Pitzer. "It gives us some real clout. They listen to us."

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) assisted the fledgling OASR, too. Rick Patterson, at the time director of NSSF's range division, traveled to Oregon and gave a presentation to shooting range owners and managers about the importance of ranges coming together. NSSF also paid to bring in speakers on environmental issues of concern to state ranges.

A Shooting Range Summit in 2012

The National Shooting Sports Fouindation will host a Shooting Range Summit in 2012 that will bring together range owners, operators and volunteers from around the nation. The summit will be a great opportunity to, among other things, network on forming OASR-type organizations.

"The summit will be all about ways to increase shooting range participation," said Zach Snow, NSSF's manager of shooting promotions. "The other big focus will be on education--to share those resources that will help us promote, protect, and preserve our shooting ranges for years to come."

At the time of this writing, neither dates, location nor agenda had been finalized. NSSF will post details at www.nssf.org/ranges.

"NSSF was really helpful," says Pitzer. "When they brought in Rick Patterson, and he talked to those other range operators about why we needed to organize, that really bought us a lot of credibility within the state."

It is a credibility that has been well earned.

"OASR has really become the ambassador in the state for shooting ranges and the shooting range industry," says Zach Snow, NSSF's manager of shooting promotions. "It's a great cooperative effort, and it's ensuring that the future of shooting ranges in Oregon is bright, for years and years to come."

Snow adds that Oregon was the first state to unify its ranges into a cohesive organization, and that OASR is truly a model for other states and their shooting ranges.

Pitts, though, is very clear on one point: OASR is not looking for a fight. Just the opposite.

"We're not trying to beat DEQ or any other agency," says Pitts. "We're trying to work with DEQ."

When OASR got up and running, for example, one of its main efforts was to inform state ranges about the applicable environmental regulations. Later, OASR began putting together legal and engineering resources to help ranges defend themselves from complaints and investigations.

As Pitts notes, it is much easier--and much less costly--for ranges to be proactive and to protect themselves before problems start. One of the most important things ranges need to do is to develop Environmental Stewardship Plans or ESPs. An ESP is a written document that lays out a range's lead-management practices. OASR helps member and nonmember ranges develop ESPs so that they incorporate Best Management Practices. Simply having an ESP on hand and being able to show state regulators that best management practices have been implemented has stopped many anti-range complaints right in their tracks.

To understand just how far OASR has come as an organization, consider that the group recently began working on a publication that will explain state environmental laws, with range-specific examples, and detail the best management practices these ranges should be employing. OASR is working with Oregon DEQ on the project, and should have the book-length publication out sometime this year.

"We hope to issue these books to all the ranges in the state, whether they are OASR members or not, so we're all working on the same page," says Pitts.

Are you interested in the idea of a range association in your state?

"First of all, contact us, and we'll help in any way that we can," Pitzer says. "We're an open book. We'll tell you all we can about what we did, if it worked, if it didn't."

Contact a number of other ranges operators and mangers within your state and begin to discuss the idea of an association. Get feedback on what sorts of challenges these ranges are facing. However, do not expect any one person to tackle such an undertaking alone.

"We had a number of various ranges with enthusiastic members, notably Fred Ross of Siuslaw Rod & Gun Club in Florence, that were essential to making this organization get off the ground," says Pitts. "They helped identify the needs and sell the concept."

NSSF's Snow recommends a core group of three to five people to do the initial start-up work and will be willing to serve as association officers.

"NSSF is all for assisting these kinds of efforts," Snow adds. "For example, we're able to plant seed money to implement the initial organizational structure, so that it can become a non-profit 501 corporation and a new range association can move forward."

"You've got to have a few people really willing to grab the ball and run with it," Pitts says. "It can take some real time, some significant hours. But, my gosh, the benefits are going to be so huge to your state's clubs and shooting ranges. You won't just be safeguarding yourselves--you'll be preserving shooting sports in your state for years to come."