New County Ordinance Opens Jefferson County Commercial Forests to For-profit Military and Paramilitary Training

November 3, 2018

On Friday November 2, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that opens commercial forest in Jefferson County to large-scale, for-profit military and paramilitary training.

Because the ordinance contains no restrictions on the scale or types of shooting or tactical training that is allowed, Jefferson County will likely become a magnet for outdoor gun range development. Ranges could be hundreds of acres in size. Helicopters and other aircraft are permitted as is shooting at night.

In effect, the County could be trading an economy based on agriculture, forestry and tourism to one focused on commercial operations that host military and paramilitary training.

The ordinance was the culmination of a year-long moratorium on siting gun ranges that was approved by the County Commissioners in December of 2017. Even though the ordinance that established the moratorium expressly stated that recent regulations passed by Kitsap County should serve as a model, the new Jefferson County ordinance is much less restrictive. The Jefferson County rules allow gun range development along public lakes and streams. In addition, it permits any type of training desired by military or paramilitary groups. Overnight accommodations are allowed, making long-term, high-intensity training programs permissible.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition (TRC) wanted the ordinance to protect the citizens of Jefferson County, our forest economy and the environment. They advocated for maximizing public safety and minimizing the impact of lead, copper, and noise pollution. The new ordinance fails to address the dangers posed to the public and wildlife by copper pollution. The new ordinance also ignores concerns raised by the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association, a 700-member non-profit that had lobbied for measures that would help their facility meet the design changes mandated in the new law.

TRC favors indoor gun ranges and opposes outdoor gun ranges that are located near lakes and other public recreation areas, or that are large-scale and designed for military or paramilitary training. Although the Commissioners received hundreds of written comments and heard over 6 hours of testimony, that public input was not reflected in the ordinance.

“While the Tarboo Ridge Coalition is very disappointed that the BOCC adopted this flawed ordinance, we are in no way less determined to use every available resource to prevent the establishment of any military/ paramilitary training center on the shores of Tarboo Lake or any place else in Jefferson County,” said Jim Smith, a Tarboo Ridge Coalition member.