Selecting which Wyoming community will get a proposed multimillion-dollar shooting complex could come down to a number of factors — proximity to an airport, utilities at the building site and the availability of lodging and other amenities.
But one other factor could come into play. Wyoming’s notorious wind.
That point was raised by shooting enthusiast Jon Maestri of Sheridan in a recent email to Cowboy State Daily.
As a shooting complex task force appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon sets out to determine where a $10 million shooting complex could be built, wind velocities should be “seriously considered,” Maestri said.
“You will not be able to persuade rifle shooters to support competitions in a windy location,” he wrote.
Wind Could Blow Some Big Towns Out Of The Running
If wind becomes a serious factor of consideration of where to put it, that could hurt some of Wyoming’s larger communities’ chances of getting the shooting complex, meteorologist Don Day of Cheyenne told Cowboy State Daily.
“Any communities along the Interstate 80 and Interstate 25 corridors are going to be prone to wind events. Not only in terms of severity, but in terms of prolonged winds,” he said.
“Cheyenne, Laramie and Casper would have a very difficult time trying to argue that weather wouldn’t be a factor,” Day added.
On the flip side, Riverton and Lander are far tamer when it comes to wind, he said.
“How many wind farms have you seen in Riverton? What’s good for wind farms might not be good for a rifle range,” he said.
What About Torrington, Bighorn Basin?
Day is an avid shooter himself and said that sometimes the howling winds in Cheyenne cause him “to not even bother” trying to get out and run a few rounds through his rifles.
However, Torrington, about an hour and 15 minutes from Cheyenne, is frequently far less windy, he said.
That’s because it sits in the North Platte River Valley, so it has some topographical shelter from the Cowboy State’s legendary ripping air currents.
Another good region for relatively still air is the Bighorn Basin. including such locations as Greybull, Worland and the country north of Thermopolis, Day said. Again, the surrounding topography creates a huge natural windbreak around the entire area.
Members of the shooting complex task force have cited a huge facility in Grand Junction, Colorado, as a good possible template for what Wyoming’s complex could look like. The task force hopes to tour shooting complex in Grand Junction sometime soon.
Day said Grand Junction, while it can get hot, is also relatively well protected from wind by adjacent mountains, which make that a good location for shooting ranges.
“If I were to say, ‘What is the Grand Junction of Wyoming?’ I would say it would be somewhat similar to the Bighorn Basin,” he said.
The Wyoming Legislature earlier this year passed a bill approving the formation of the shooting complex task force and setting aside $10 million for the facility.
The task force includes members of the Wyoming Legislature, as well as representatives from the Wyoming Office of Tourism, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Wyoming Business Council, private businesses and conservation groups.
The group is charged to spend roughly the next two years coming up with solid plans for the shooting complex to present to the Legislature. Towns and cities across Wyoming also will get a chance to submit requests for proposals to be the chosen site for the complex.
It’s envisioned as far more than just another shooting range. It could include multiple ranges for an array of shooting sports – such as long-range rifle shooting, pistol and tactical shooting as well as skeet, trap and archery. It could also include classrooms for hunter education and wildlife conservation courses.
Money Is On Hold For Now
That $10 million the Legislature authorized includes $5 million from the state’s general fund, $2.5 million from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and $2.5 million from the Wyoming Office of Tourism.
That $10 million will sit in a special fund, untouched unless and until plans for the shooting complex and its location come to fruition. And even then, the money can’t be released until the Legislature authorizes it.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.