When advocates recently argued in favor of a hiking ban on Pennsylvania game lands during hunting season, they said the ban was fair because the lands were bought and maintained using money gained from hunting. It turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that.
In a recent blog post for WITF.org, Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club President Jim Foster says hiking groups were surprised when the Pennsylvania Game Commission proposed a ban on hiking on game lands during hunting season earlier this month. The proposal was later withdrawn, but officials say it could be brought up again.
Foster wrote that the rationale for the ban – that funding for game lands comes primarily from hunting fees and similar sources, like an excise tax on firearms – is not the full story. He says much of the land that makes up state game lands actually comes from other sources, such as the Keystone Trails Association and conservation groups like Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, Wildlands Conservancy, ClearWater Conservancy and others. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy alone, he says, has acquired and donated more than 45,000 acres of land to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
He goes on to say one of his favorite hikes, the Thousand Steps, was acquired and rebuilt by the Keystone Trails Association and conservation groups, and they then turned it over to the game commission for preservation. Foster also writes that hiking groups regularly build and maintain trails and shelters on game lands.