The Water Utilities Trust voted Tuesday to forbid lead shot at a sport shooting range on public land in southeast Oklahoma City, a move that could lead the owner to shutter the business.
“I can't afford to do it without lead. The shooters won't come,” said Dave Martin, owner of Quail Ridge Sporting Clays.
Trust members were considering a proposal to relocate the range from SE 149 Street, where it opened in February 2012 on land in the West Elm Creek Reservation.
The proposed new site, on SE 119 Street, has drawn opposition from people who live about a mile away. About 20 opponents were at the Water Utility Trust's meeting, ready to voice their concerns about noise, lead shot and other issues.
The original decision to relocate the range followed protests from residents living near the current site, where Martin had a 10-year lease.
He is now on a month-to-month lease pending a decision on where, or whether, to relocate the business.
The vote means Martin must decide whether to submit a new lease specifying that only steel shot can be used by his customers, who take part in shotgun sports including trap shooting that simulate bird hunting.
Shotgun sports shooters prefer lead shot. They have concerns about accuracy and about the potential for damage to their guns from steel.
Martin derives a financial advantage from leasing the public land because his range is only minutes from downtown Oklahoma City. He said after the vote that he wasn't ready to say what he would do.
Pete White, chairman of the Water Utilities Trust and the city council member who represents the area, said he was convinced other issues could be managed and that his vote came down to concerns about the effect of lead shot on wildlife.
Lead shot lying on the ground can be consumed by waterfowl, poisoning the birds and making them easy pickings for predators, such as eagles, which then ingest the lead.
White said he had extensively studied the issues — noise, threats from lead to water quality and to birds — and read stacks of comments arguing for and against the range.
“This is very personal to me,” he said. “I've tried to make up my mind so I can live with myself at the end of the day.”
Trust members voted 3-1 to forbid lead shot. Vice Chairman Carl Edwards and City Manager James Couch joined White, while Pat Ryan, who sits with White on the city council, voted no. Cody Graves was absent.
Trust members then voted 4-0 to defer further action until May 7 while Martin decides what to do. Should Martin agree to the ban on lead shot, the Water Utilities Trust would vote on a new lease. The city council would make the final decision.
Opponents of the proposed new site found reason for optimism in the decisions.
“We're thinking that this is very good for us,” said Carolyn Pimsler, who lives off SE 104 Street, north and west of where the range would relocate.