As the state prepares to re-open a controversial shooting range it owns in Hartland, a rift has developed within the Fish and Wildlife Board. One board member says the site is unsafe, but the commissioner strongly disagrees.
The Hammond Cove gun range in Hartland has riled neighbors across the Connecticut River in Plainfield, New Hampshire ever since 2012. That’s when the state’s renovations greatly increased usage — and, opponents say, noise. It’s temporarily closed for further improvements. Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife board member Justin Lindholm from Rutland has started speaking out about safety concerns.
“In a range manual that I have here that is two and a half inches thick, they tell people when they site a range, 'You’re going to have problems if this range is within half a mile of houses.' And they have houses near 300 yards,” Lindholm said.
That’s the distance from the range to the closest house in New Hampshire, across the river. Hartland Elementary School is about a mile in the other direction, across Interstate 91 from the range. But Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter says Lindholm’s fears are unfounded because of the location of targets.
“There’s no way that you can be using that range in accordance with the rules and shoot towards those houses,” Porter said.
Porter admits that many years ago, rounds went astray into trees and a residential garage. But that was before the state's upgrades, which are still underway, including a new backstop behind the pistol targets.
“Perhaps the most important provision that we are putting in place for safety is we’re going to have range officers on site at the range, making sure that people are shooting safely in the proper way and following the rules,” Porter said.
Porter says the range will re-open soon but will close again for the winter, when bullets are more likely to ricochet off frozen ground. But Fish and Wildlife Board member Lindholm insists Hammond Cove is so poorly sited that it should either be moved, closed or equipped with expensive bulletproof baffles. It's an opinion he admits no one else on the Fish and Wildlife Board shares.