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PA Game Commission set to reopen state shooting ranges

From staff reports

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced that, on Friday, May 8, it will reopen to the public its Northwest and Northcentral Region Offices, and reopen shooting ranges on state game lands in counties to be upgraded to the yellow phase in the state’s three-phase matrix to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Those counties include: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren.

Within those counties, any rifle, shotgun, pistol and archery ranges on state game lands will be reopened beginning Friday, May 8.

Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, where counties will remain in the matrix’s red-phase, and where stay-at-home orders remain in place and large gatherings are prohibited, shooting ranges on state game lands will remain closed.

Future changes regarding the opening of additional game-lands shooting ranges will be announced by the Game Commission as they are authorized.

The shooting ranges to reopen May 8 include those on: State Game Lands 24 in Forest County; State Game Lands 72 in Clarion County; State Game Lands 109 in Erie County; State Game Lands 176 in Centre County; and State Game Lands 77 in Clearfield County.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the reopening of shooting ranges in yellow-phase counties, as permitted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s updated guidance, is a step toward resuming routine schedules that invariably changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The closing of shooting ranges on game lands impacted hunters and target shooters who rely on those ranges for practice,” Burhans said. “I’m pleased to announce this round of range openings and look forward to the next. If each of us continues to strive to stay safe and follows the state Department of Health’s guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19, it only can contribute to the further easing of restrictions that will allow for the reopening of additional ranges.”

The Game Commission closed all shooting ranges on state game lands in late March in accordance with Gov. Wolf’s developing guidance to help control the spread of COVID-19. Work restrictions enacted at the time left the Game Commission without staffing to service ranges, which require routine maintenance.

The closing of shooting ranges followed a decision to close all Game Commission offices to the public.

The Game Commission maintains about 30 shooting ranges on game lands statewide. The ranges ordinarily can be used during regular hours by anyone with a valid hunting or furtaker license, or shooting-range permit.

Pennsylvania’s 1.6 million acres of state game lands have remained open for public access throughout the pandemic, and all hunting seasons and bag limits have remained in effect. The agency’s state game wardens during this time continued their work to respond to wildlife emergencies and enforce hunting laws.

The Northwest Region Office in Franklin, and the Northcentral Region Office in Jersey Shore, both are in counties to be upgraded to the yellow-phase on Friday. Calls can still be placed to all region offices; visit www.pgc.pa.gov for a list of phone numbers.

For the latest information about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, please visit the Department of Health’s website: www.health.pa.gov.

“We encourage everyone to continue to take precautionary measures during this time and to continue to be safe and responsible as we get through the next few weeks together,” Burhans said.

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