Thursday, March 23, 2017



Comment: The shortage of shooting ranges in AZ continues.
Root cause? The Feds own way too much of AZ land.
Example? Several years ago now, the USFS closed the Tucson Rod & Gun Club range in Sabino Canyon. To this day they never manage a replacement site.
Additional mitigation would be more ranges on state owned lands, including state trust lands.
"The project is estimated to cost $3.7 million."

BP accused of trespassing, using man's property as firing range
By Paulina Pineda
Nogales International Mar 21, 2017

Border Patrol target range
Contributed photo
This photo taken in late February by Joe Barr shows Nogales Border Patrol agents trespassing on property owned by Nohe Garcia in Western Nogales. Barr said the group was using the land to target practice without permission.
Border Patrol target range
Contributed photo

Nohe Garcia said Border Patrol agents spray-painted this figure on his property, which he is developing into an industrial park.

Less than a year after a judge found that the U.S. Border Patrol was negligent in operating a firing range in Western Nogales, which led to severe contamination on a local landowner's property, the law enforcement agency trespassed onto another piece of property owned by the same man and allegedly used it for target practice.

Nohe Garcia, who owns property on Calle Plata that he's developing into an industrial park, said he found rubber bullets and other items scattered on the ground while walking through the property late last month, but he wasn't sure who it belonged to.

The next day, Garcia said, he spotted a group of Border Patrol agents, who did not have permission to be on the property, and confronted them.

"They said they thought it was (U.S. Forest Service) land," Garcia said. "It's well marked, there are wooden stakes with engravings all around where they were parked. I don't know what they were thinking, you could clearly see that there's a (construction) project going on."

Because he had an appointment in Mexico, Garcia asked friend and local landowner Joe Barr of Mariposa Properties to make contact with the agents and document the incident. Photos dated Feb. 22 that were provided to the NI purport to show at least a dozen agents and three patrol vehicles on the property. Another photo shows a figure that was spray painted onto the bank of a slope that agents were allegedly firing at.

Barr said the group was packing up their belongings and cleaning up the area when he arrived.

The two property owners later met with a supervisor at the Nogales Border Patrol Station, but Barr said the supervisor offered no reasons for why the agency thought it was OK for agents to use the property as a firing range.

"There wasn't a whole lot of feedback," he said. "It was more like, 'We made a mistake, we won't do it again.' But for us it's a big concern because we've had issues with them before."

Garcia also filed a report with the Nogales Police Department.

According to Arizona state law, firing a weapon within city limits is considered a Class 6 felony, unless it's on a properly supervised range that's operated by a club affiliated with a nationally recognized shooting organization or school or approved by a local, state or federal agency.

Asked about policies regarding where the agency can conduct firearms training, a Border Patrol spokesman said trainings are only held at approved sites.

"We do not ever do any kind of firearms training except at a range that is specific to our needs, an approved range at an indoor facility or a pre-approved outdoor range," the spokesman said.

A follow-up email seeking further information about the incident was not returned by press time.

Remediation project

This isn't the first dispute between Garcia and the Border Patrol regarding the proper use of a firing range.

On July 26, 2016, Garcia was awarded $542,355 after a federal judge found that the agency was negligent in operating a firing range off Target Range Road, which led to contamination on roughly 98 acres of land that Garcia was attempting to develop.

Despite ruling in Garcia's favor, the judge refused to award Garcia the full amount sought, which was more than $11.8 million. She also did not specify when the federal government will have to carry out cleanup efforts on his land.

Barr, who owns land adjacent to the firing range, said he reached out in February to Paul Enriquez, environmental branch chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, requesting an update on the cleanup project.

In an emailed response, which Barr provided to the NI, Enriquez wrote that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently awarded a contract for the cleanup at the firing range and remediation work was slated to begin this summer or fall "once we have coordinated and received approval from the state." The project is estimated to cost $3.7 million.

"The initial goal is to remove the primary source area on the Arbo property then focus on the secondary areas to include your property and Mr. Garcia's property," Enriquez wrote. "I don't yet have a schedule for the removal actions on your property and Mr. Garcia's but will have a better sense of a likely schedule once this initial phase is executed."

Barr said the lack of urgency by CBP was concerning.

"I am greatly concerned that after six years we don't have a schedule to take even the very first step to determine the extent of contamination on surrounding properties," he wrote in an email. "Meanwhile, for more than six years this contamination has tied up 218 acres of land owned by three different families.

"And then we see the recent event where (Border Patrol) commandeered another piece of private property for use as a shooting range. Again, without any permission from the landowner," he added. "It is most unfortunate that our federal government treats its own citizens with such disregard for their welfare."


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