Game Commission will reopen Franklin office on Friday

From staff reports

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will reopen its Northwest Region office in Franklin on Friday.

The commission will also reopen shooting ranges on state games lands in the 24 counties that have been upgraded to the yellow phase in the state’s three-phase matrix to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Those counties include Venango, Clarion, Forest, Crawford, Mercer and Jefferson.

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

The shooting ranges to reopen Friday 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.

The game commission also will open its Northcentral Region office in Jersey Shore on Friday.

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,” he said.

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.

“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.