Hunters preparing for the coming big-game rifle seasons will again have the advantage of sighting in their firearms at several area ranges owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The agency said last week that ranges at Waterford and New Florence on Westmoreland County’s State Game Land 42 are open, as are facilities on SGL 108 in northern Cambria County and SGL 248 in Indiana County.

The range on SGL 50 in Somerset County remains closed, but is expected to reopen next year after safety issues have been addressed.

“The rifle range is kind of pointing in the wrong direction,” said Mel Schake of the game commission’s Southwest Region. “When you sit at the bench, you’re shooting in the direction of Somerset. They identified that as an issue. I don’t know what the ultimate plan is, but I know it’s taking a lot longer to solve than it was supposed to take.”

Schake said normal use of the range doesn’t present a hazard, but there is concern about someone firing into the air over the backstop.

“They thought about putting an overhang over the shooting position so you couldn’t shoot at an angle high enough to loft it over the backstop,” he said. “They also looked at the shooting tubes that were tried in Centre County briefly.”

Those options and other were too costly, Schake said.

Meanwhile, with funding from the Growing Greener program, the refurbishing and reopening of ranges across the state is nearly complete, the game commisson said.

“While the agency has been spending more than $200,000 annually to maintain these ranges, vandalism and other examples of misuse of these ranges have required far more investment in upkeep than the agency is able to budget,” game commission Executive Director Carl Roe said in an announcement. “However, thanks to the Rendell administration and General Assembly providing the game commission a portion of the Growing Greener II monies for environmental projects, we are able to address some of the needs of these ranges.”

Roe said the game commission has used more than $1.7 million in Growing Greener funds to remove lead from its ranges, and another $454,000 to upgrade them to current safety standards.

“We are requesting lead remediation and stabilization of soil materials removed from backstop berms, side berms and range floors at all game commission shooting ranges,” he said. “Lead remediation measures are being undertaken to prevent any lead contamination of surface areas and surface and ground waters on state game lands. This effort is the largest by any state agency in the country, and will result in environmentally clean and safe shooting ranges provided to the general public by the game commission.”

The work is part of a statewide effort during the past three years. The range on SGL 50 was closed in 2005 and, although lead removal has been completed there, safety upgrades have not been completed.

Game commission ranges in Elk, Jefferson and Beaver counties have been cleaned and closed permanently, and two ranges on Army Corps of Engineers properties – in Indiana and York counties – have been cleaned and decommissioned.

The agency’s ranges are open 8 a.m. to sunset year-round except on Sunday mornings.

Sunday hours are noon to sunset.

For more information, visit www.pgc.state.pa.us. Click on “State Game Lands” and select “public shooting ranges.”

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