Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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PA: DCNR relents: Philipsburg club range finally reopens

Leadership change at state paved way for
shooting

Northcentral Correspondent

Philipsburg, Pa. – The report of fine shotguns can once again be
heard echoing through Moshannon State Forest as Philipsburg Rod and
Gun Club members pulverize clay targets.

After a five-year hiatus, a new agreement between the club and the
state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources allows the
club’s range to be reopened. Organized trap-shooting events resumed
at its Black Moshannon State Park facility on July 24.

Troubles began at the range nearly five years ago. DCNR and Black
Moshannon State Park staff called a meeting with the club in the
fall of 2006. The 150-member club was informed that extremely high
levels of lead had been discovered in the trap range soils.

Park officials warned they would not be renewing the club’s lease.
DCNR also feared that lead was entering an adjacent wetland and the
park’s lake itself. Shooting was halted immediately.

It has been a long and difficult road to get the range reopened,
with many starts and stops and no small investment by the
club.

The club was instructed to perform ecological and human- health
risk assessments for the 23 acres that it leases at Black Moshannon
State Park. This was completed in 2008 by Converse Consultants of
State College, one of the DCNR-suggested firms.

When the study showed no risk to humans or the environment, DCNR
balked at the results.

In 2010, John Norbeck, DCNR’s director of parks, asked that the
club come up with a valid environmental stewardship plan. The club
had already hired Richard Peddicord, a well-known expert in lead
management, to write a best management practices plan for the club
to follow.

But DCNR claimed that it did not go far enough. Norbeck wanted the
club to pay to have all of the lead pellets vacuumed from the
ground.

During the past four years, the club was offered at least 10
different leases by DCNR, but to the club, all were
unsatisfactory.

“How can you have a lease at a shooting range that demands that
there be no net gain of lead on the ground?” asked Philipsburg Rod
and Gun Club President Dave Laux during a May interview. “If one
shot was fired, we would have been in violation of our
lease.”

All of the bad feelings from both sides of the dispute appear to be
history. Club Secretary Paul Bobby credits new DCNR Secretary
Richard Allan and the intervention of several local senators and
representatives for finally getting the club’s trap range to
reopen.

“The club would not have arrived at this point without the support
and management expertise of state representatives Matt Gabler,
Kerry Benninghoff, Scott Hutchinson, senators John Wozniak and John
Eichelberger, DCNR Secretary Richard Allan and U.S. Congressman
Glenn Thompson and their staff personnel,” Bobby said.

The club had been asking for a meeting with the DCNR secretary for
several years, but it never happened. Both Laux and Bobby credit a
change in administration and a new DCNR secretary for all of the
positive movement that has occurred during the past two
months.

“We had a face-to-face meeting with Secretary Allan on June 16, and
for some reason, DCNR cooperation changed dramatically for the
better,” commented Laux. A follow-up meeting was held on July 5 to
work out details and everything was signed by both parties on July
22.

According to the club, the terms of the 10-year lease call for the
club to close Trap 1, the one closest to the wetland, and clean up
visible lead in the most concentrated areas. Shooting time was
extended 30 minutes later each evening to accommodate the
club.

“Many, many people worked long and hard to achieve this lease
renewal that paved the way for resumption of the long-standing
tradition of trap shooting at Black Moshannon State Park,” said
DCNR Secretary Allan.

“With this agreement, the club will remove lead pellets that have
accumulated in the range outfall area during the many years that
shooting has occurred at the range,” Allan added.

“Consistent with recommendations by state and federal environmental
agencies, the club now will be operating under an environmental
stewardship plan and implementing best management practices at the
range.”

The secretary noted that this plan involves the club having
accumulated lead pellets removed over the next three years. In
addition, strategies will be put into place to prevent the future
buildup of lead pellets from occurring.

“The club will be taking other steps, such as using biodegradable
targets, to ensure its activities are protective of the
environmental conditions that exist at the park,” Allan said. “…
There is a ‘win-win’ outcome for all involved.”

Laux is pleased with the outcome. “Compared to the way things have
been for the past five years, I’m pretty darn happy,” he said.
“Pennsylvania State Parks can now rightly reclaim their place among
state park systems throughout the U.S. that have shooting offered
to park visitors.”

Both Bobby and Laux affirmed that the club is committed to
protecting the park land and to operating their range in an
environmentally sound manner. They noted that the new park manager,
Jessica Lavelua, is favorable to shooting.

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