MOUNT BAKER-SNOQUALMIE NATIONAL FOREST - "This is literally a disaster,” said State Rep. Chris Hurst.
That's what Hurst said as he walked through the forest, outside Greenwater. He stumbled upon bullet-riddled televisions, propane tanks, and fuel canisters.
"There are shell casings everywhere," said Hurst.
Hurst said it all started roughly three years ago when "a whole new group of people started coming into the woods with guns."
On this sunny Friday, he shook his head as he watched a few people, including a young family, use a part of the forest land for target practice. Hurst said, and the Forest Service confirmed, the spot was the site of a small fire sparked by recreational shooting last week.
"We heard the shooting, heard the explosions, saw the cars there, saw the fire," said Hurst, who lives near the spot.
He said he's complained to Federal officials for weeks, and has seen no changes.
Beyond the fire concerns, Hurst said there are issues about safety near main roads and environmental contamination. He pointed to a study, paid for by his neighborhood association, showing lead levels in the soil well above safe levels. A two-hour tour to multiple spots revealed fallen, bullet riddled trees.
The Forest Service said it is aware of the complaints, and was proactively patrolling this past week. Spokesperson Tracy O'Toole wrote in an emailed statement:
"The Forest Service has had a fully staffed fire engine patrolling the Hwy 410 corridor daily over the past week. The Forest Service will have a fully staffed engine on patrol in the area working extended hours over the next several days. The Forest Service is not considering a temporary ban on target shooting at this time as weather conditions are expected to moderate over the weekend. The Forest Service is currently exploring long-term options to address recreational shooting concerns in the area."
But Hurst said, it should be addressed sooner rather than later.
"In the forest, you can have shooting, but with designated areas, that have bullets traps, and safety things, there so you don't start fires,” Hurst said.
"I've been a hunter most of my life, I own guns," he said. "People up here are not anti-hunting, not looking at shut down of hunting. We need to shut down right now, recreational shooting, until all of this gets cleaned up."
As he walked away, Hurst turned and stared at a slope littered with debris.
"This is not what John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt had in mind," Hurst said.