DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Federal authorities are cracking down on the use of exploding targets on U.S. Forest Service land in five states to prevent them from sparking wildfires.

The order Monday covers forest and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and be sent prison for up to six months.

Exploding targets can be purchased legally. They’re used for shooting practice and explode when hit by a bullet.

“When you shoot these they blow up, and they blow up pretty spectacularly, which is why they’re popular,” U.S. Attorney John Walsh said at a news conference on Monday.

According to the Forest Service, they’ve caused at least 16 wildfires nationally in the last year. In the five-state region, they’re blamed for starting seven since the beginning of 2012. The largest was Springer Gulch near Colorado’s Lake George. It cost $2.7 million to fight.

“Pretty much any of the brands that are out there of exploding targets pose the risk of fire that we’re talking about here today,” Walsh said.

A quick YouTube search yields almost 70,000 results, showing the popularity.

“The degree of risk posed by these devices on the forests has really only gradually become apparent,” Walsh said.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering a similar ban.

The Forest Service order issued Monday is temporary, but the agency is working to enact a permanent rule that would ban exploding targets on national forests and grasslands, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver.

The Forest Service said they still support recreational shooting on public lands, but say the exploding targets are just too dangerous, especially given the dry conditions for the past few years.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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