The U.S. Forest Service called a 120-day halt to target shooting throughout Croatan National Forest on July 13, 2015.
Then that restriction was extended, so it remains in place today, more than three years later.
That hasn’t prevented do-it-yourself shooting ranges from continuing to riddle the landscape and pose a public safety hazard throughout the 160,000-acre public forest near New Bern.
The illicit form of recreation often leaves damaged trees and plant life in its wake.
And garbage. Lots of garbage. Everything from bullet-pocked refrigerators and propane tanks to beer bottles and auto parts.
The rubbish and bullet holes have left a scar on portions of the public woodlands.
Chris Kent, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, has observed the mayhem and “trigger trash” left in the aftermath.
Last summer, Kent went mountain biking on his own time to a favorite spot in an isolated northwestern corner of the Croatan, tracking black bear and observing deer and turkey for the upcoming bow-hunting season.
What he discovered churned his stomach.
“It was trashed,” Kent said. Left behind were shot-up sofas, televisions, and hundreds of rounds of brass and used shells littered in the grass.
“It broke my heart. I turned around and haven’t been back since.”