Volunteers clean up public shooting range

Local American Legion members & volunteers pitch in

Against the backdrop of cliffs on a beautifully blue Saturday, 15 volunteers organized by the American Legion came together at the Red Cliff shooting range for an annual fall cleanup. Orchestrated by Brett Slehofer, a fourth generation Montanan who moved up to Big Sky to build houses, the group spent the afternoon filling up bags of brass, collecting trash from the forest and replacing chewed up target boards. They finished everything off with a barbecue and cold drinks.

The Hebgen Lake Ranger District, which manages the public land, warned users it would have to shut down the public shooting area if poor practices continued. Much like the nearby Hyalite Canyon, the area was becoming over-loved, over-used and disrespected by land users.

Dave Brauch of Bozeman and Mike Denyer of Idaho Falls just happened to stop by on Saturday in the hopes of shooting but ended up assisting the volunteers in the cleanup. “We came over to shoot [from Red Cliff campground] and it seemed like a bad idea with all these people around,” chuckled Denyer.

For the past three years, Brauch and Denye have brought their families up to the area to camp along the Gallatin River. “It’s a gem,” told Brauch. “Contrast this to Hyalite, which got shut down... You meet people from everywhere and they're cordial, courteous, and somewhat respectful,” he said with a smile.

Following the successful clean up—with burger and bratwurst smoke swirling in the air— Slehofer rounded up all the volunteers and American Legion members to say thanks for contributing and take a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

The plan is to keep the cleanup dates consistent, both in fall and spring, to make it easier for folks who want to lend a hand. “No matter rain, snow, sleet, whatever, we want to keep it on the second Saturday of September every year,” told Slehofer. If the American Legion didn’t volunteer their time, there’s a good chance the area would get shut down due to heavy use along Highway 191. Taking care of public spaces, especially ones close to home, is an important aspect of living in Big Sky country. The American Legion happily plays its part.

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