Restrictions on public use of recreation areas continues under COVID-19 lunacy
By JIM MATTHEWS
The best place for social distancing and exposing yourself and family to natural ultraviolet light that kills the COVID-19 virus is the great outdoors.
Yet, county, state, and federal governments continue to extend closures of public recreation areas and lands over virus fears.
U.S. FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS STILL CLOSED: This week, the U.S. Forest Service extended its closures on all developed campgrounds and other recreation sites throughout California. The rationale is -- in a nutshell – the agency doesn’t want to expose its staff to the necessity of cleaning restroom facilities, hauling trash, or collecting fees. Because they can’t or won’t do those things, the managers don’t want to expose the public to their inability to do its basic job at recreation sites. This decision probably trickles back to a lawyer in some meeting howling about liability, and everyone else turning a ghostly white with fear.
The closure was supposed to end April 30, but it has now been extended to May 15.
Thankfully, the closure does not extend to dispersed camping, hiking, or fishing on forest lands.
LAKE PALMDALE CLOSES AGAIN: Also this week, the Los Angeles County Health Department forced the Palmdale Fin and Feather Club at Lake Palmdale to reclose the lake to fishing and other activities, under both state and county orders for “non-essential” businesses to close.
“The current order, if not extended, ends May 15” said the note from the county that also threatened the facility with the usual fines and litigation.
Any of the members and their guests who visited the lake in the past couple of weeks when it was open (after an initial closure) saw two things: People acting responsibly, sanely to protect their health and the health of others, but also great fishing. This one makes absolutely no sense.
STATE PARKS STILL NOT OPEN: A lot of anglers have been prodding State Parks to reopen parking areas at popular fishing parks, especially Silverwood and Lake Perris recreation areas, so anglers would have easier access to the good fishing on-going on at these parks for anglers who are bicycling or walking into the facilities.
One park superintendent wrote back to me this week, with this terse note: “We will most likely will continue to be ‘Soft’ closed (Parking lots) until the Governor lifts his Statewide shelter in place order. Local city/county orders have no impact on our decision. The big issue with Perris is our swimming situation. Once we re-open we will have 2,000 people on each swim beach, especially when the weather is 90 plus. If we close swim beach people will just swim in other locations of the lake (Non-lifeguarded/boat areas).”
His bosses fear liability, stupid people, and don’t trust anyone to make their own decisions.
The whole issue has gotten completely out of hand.
AMMUNITION REGISTRATION BACK IN PLACE: One day.
Californian’s were free of the onerous state law that requires a background check and bans out-of-state mail-order sales of ammunition. On Thursday last week, a judge threw out the California law as unconstitutional. Roger Benitez, senior judge with the U.S. District Court’s Southern District in San Diego, ruled “the Second Amendment is not a ‘loophole’ that needs to be closed” in tossing out the law. He also refused the state’s request for a stay of his order setting aside the law until an appeal could be litigated. Boom!
Mail order ammunition sales were brisk the day after the judge’s ruling, but it lasted all of one day. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of Benitez’ ruling until the appeal could be heard. So, the horrific law is back on the books for months, if not a year or more, if not forever – depending on what higher courts decide.
BLM FIRE RESTRICTIONS – WHAT?: The Bureau of Land Management announced its annual fire and target shooting restriction this week as the heat wave settled across Southern California. The fire restrictions/guidelines are sound if stupid people would just follow them. The rest of us would follow these rules on our own.
But the rules are confusing because there are apparently Stage II and Stage III fire restriction areas, but apparently the restrictions in those two areas are the same. Why the two stages if there are no differences between Stage II and Stage III? Nowhere in any of the materials available on-line, including the actual order, is there delineation between Stage II and Stage III. It’s a real head-scratcher.
The recreational or target shooting restrictions are also a little baffling again. My strict reading of the order suggests there are no restrictions of target shooting except for the use of tracer ammunition or bullets with steel jackets or cores (unless you are legally hunting with this ammunition, according to one press release; although, I don’t know anyone who uses tracer or steel jacketed ammunition to hunt).
Quit laughing. This is what happens when people who know absolutely nothing about firearms and ammunition write regulations. Last year, solid copper bullets were banned in the fire restrictions – until BLM officials learned that California now required hunters to use copper ammunition instead of lead. The fire ordered would have banned big game hunting on BLM lands, and all bird hunting – where hunters are now required to use steel shot.
This year they tried to fix last year’s problems, completely omitting anything about copper (which was a good thing on a lot of fronts). But it made tracers and steel jacketed rifle bullets legal for hunting – which they are not under state law. It’s comical, but at least these bureaucrats are trying to get it right.
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Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.