An Update On The State Game Land Closure

Posted on April 29, 2024.

It’s been over two years since the PA Game Commission, in conjunction with the PA Fish and Boat Commission, closed State Game Lands (SGL) 51 and 138 to rock climbing activities, citing climber activity as impacting the habitat of “several rare, threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species.” 

Since the closure, SWPACC has been working countless hours behind the scenes to pursue the reopening of the Game Lands. Our efforts have involved ongoing outreach to both the Game Commission and Fish and Boat, consultation with Access Fund and our fellow PA Local Climbing Organizations, talking with field experts, conducting research, and exploring our legal options.

Earlier this month, on April 4, SWPACC participated in a formal, full-day hearing with the Game Commission to address the closure. The hearing was granted by the Director of the Game Commission through a process involving Title 58 – Recreation in the Pennsylvania Code.

Represented by attorney (and climber) Benjamin Kahn, Esq., SWPACC’s case argues that the closure was unjustified due to lack of data that show climbing is negatively impacting wildlife and their habitat. The hearing involved testimony from both parties, and is now of record in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is unprecedented that this kind of hearing was granted and we were pleased to reach this milestone.

We are so appreciative of Mr. Kahn’s commitment to the cause, as all of his work was completed pro bono. We also thank our expert witness Dr. Walter Smith of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, as well as current and former SWPACC board members who were involved in the re-equip of Lost Crag and also provided testimony: Dr. Bob Coblentz, Dr. Joel Brady, and Mike Varlotta.

Within 30 days of the hearing’s conclusion, the hearing officer is required to provide a recommendation to the Director of the Game Commission, upon which the Director will then make a determination regarding next steps. We expect to hear from the Game Commission in the next couple of weeks. 

We truly believe we can collaboratively develop a sustainable climbing management plan for SGL 51 and 138 in partnership with the PA Game Commission. We’ve learned a lot during this process, and recognize that expanding our education efforts in our climbing community on best practices for wildlife and habitat stewardship will be key. In the meantime, thank you for continuing to respect this closure, which has ensured that we can continue this process effectively. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Thank you,