As rock climbing has become increasingly popular at two state hunting grounds in Fayette County, state game commission officials are limiting it to animals that grew up there.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and State Fish & Boat Commission have announced the closure of all rock climbing activities on State Game Lands 51 and 138.
State Game Lands 51 is just west of Ohiopyle State Park and south of Dunbar. State Game Lands 138 is just southeast of Fairchance near the Laurel Caverns.
“While the state’s game lands provide important places for the public to hunt, trap, and otherwise legally enjoy the outdoors, maintaining habitat that supports wildlife species and protecting those species is an integral part of the game land system and the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Fulfilling this mission every day is a big reason we have the wildlife we do in Pennsylvania and the places to enjoy it.”
Increased rock climbing has worn away lichen and moss on rock faces, cleared vegetation and natural woody debris and leaf litter from the base of climbing rocks, degrading natural habitat and affecting species that use it. are using, officials said.
“Rocks provide protection from predators, overwintering habitat and hunting grounds for foraging,” said Chris Urban, nongame, threatened and endangered species coordinator for the Fish & Boat Commission. “This habitat must be preserved in its natural state if these species are to thrive here.”
Although recreation on state game land is permitted, its primary purpose is to provide wildlife habitat, as well as hunting and trapping opportunities for those who purchase the required permits.
Most game terrain provides rock climbing opportunities, and those continue in areas where it doesn’t negatively impact native habitat, officials said.
Game Commission Southwest Region Director Jason Farabaugh said the restriction was not intended to negatively impact climbers, but noted that the commission’s primary purpose was to “manage and protect wildlife and its habitats while promoting hunting and trapping for present and future generations”.
In the agency’s strategic plan, the first guiding principle is to “put wildlife and habitat first.”