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Region office, shooting ranges to open in new counties falling in ‘yellow’ phase

From staff reports

The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced Wednesday that it will reopen to the public its Southwest Region Office, and reopen shooting ranges on additional state game lands in counties to be upgraded to the yellow phase in the state’s three-phase matrix to ease COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, May 15.

Those counties include: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

Within those counties, any rifle, shotgun, pistol and archery ranges on state game lands will be reopened beginning Friday, May 15 and regular hours of operation will resume.

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.

This is the second round of Game Commission office and shooting-range reopenings to be announced. The May 8 upgrade of 24 counties to the matrix’s yellow phase reopened the Northwest and Northcentral Region Offices and shooting ranges on five game lands.

The upgrade scheduled for Friday, May 15, will reopen ranges on nine additional game lands: State Game Lands 203 in Allegheny County; State Game Lands 108 in Cambria County; State Game Lands 51 in Fayette County; State Game Lands 179 in Greene County; State Game Lands 223 in Greene County; State Game Lands 248 in Indiana County; State Game Lands 50 in Somerset County; State Game Lands 245 in Washington County; and State Game Lands 42 in Westmoreland County.

Shooting ranges that reopened 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.

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

With the reopening of additional shooting ranges, as permitted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s updated COVID-19 guidance to take effect May 15, about half of the ranges operated and maintained by the Game Commission will be back up and running, said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans.

“That surely is welcome news for the hunters and target shooters who rely on those ranges for practice, and it’s encouraging to see a second round of reopenings authorized as a result of counties making progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Burhans said. “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 progress, fewer restrictions and more reopenings.”

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.

To enable hunters and target shooters to make up for lost opportunity due to ranges being closed, the Game Commission has extended the life of 2019-20 shooting-range permits, which have a printed expiration date of June 30, 2020. The permits will be considered valid to use on state game lands shooting ranges until Aug. 31, 2020.

Pennsylvania 2019-20 hunting and furtaker licenses, which also are set to expire June 30, 2020 and allow holders to use shooting ranges on game lands, will be honored for range use through Aug. 31, 2020, as well. However, hunters and trappers are reminded that beginning July 1, 2020, they will need 2020-21 licenses before engaging in any hunting or trapping activity through June 30, 2021.

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