For nearly a year, the Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area has been without its shooting range.

After Monday morning, the range is officially back open. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources officially re-opened the Wilson Shoals shooting range with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The renovated range featured big changes. The new shooting range is 100 yards. There was also the addition of a new firing-line cover, a 25-yard pistol range with new firing-line cover, and a classroom and office area was also built for the on-site range-safety officers.

An estimated 20 people attended the ribbon-cutting including members from the Banks County Chamber of Commerce and newly-elected state representative Chris Erwin.

“Speaking on behalf of DNR, we just can’t wait to get this wonderful facility open,” DNR commissioner Mark Williams said. “The benefit it will provide to the Banks County community and beyond will be invaluable.”

Williams said in Georgia, shooting sports provide an estimated $478 million in economic activity. Georgia oversees archery, air rifle, pistol, rifle and shotgun ranges across the state.

Williams said the ranges focus on bringing “safe, high-quality target-shooting opportunities” for communities.

“We want to cultivate a lifelong love of shooting and foster a sense of conservation for generations to come,” Williams said.

The cost of the renovations to Wilson Shoals were funded in part by the Wildlife Restoration Program, which is a federal program funded by hunters and shooters through excise taxes on equipment. Money from the sale of hunting licenses also helped fund the project.

“I strongly encourage you to spend some time out on the range, as I believe you will be extremely pleased with the work we’ve done,” Williams continued. “Your long-standing commitment to shooting sports and outdoor recreation is ultimately the reason we do what we do.”

Leopoldo Miranda, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the work done to Wilson Shoals is an example that helps keep the “tradition” of hunting and shooting sports “well and alive.”

“That’s so critical,” he said, “to be able to connect our younger generations with that tradition. Not only to preserve it, but also, that’s how people and the children connect with nature, because then, when we take them out hunting, they start seeing nature, and they start caring for that nature.”

Erwin added: “Having this in Banks County, we are very proud of this, and knowing the Banks County people here, they’re very proud...the use of this and the tradition you talked about is so important to us here to have it. We need to publicize it. A lot of folks don’t ride down here and see what we have to use this facility to not only carry on that tradition, but also to get better, and then to carry on to their future children and family members. What a great facility, what a great idea.”

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