Citing concerns about rare, threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species, the state has halted rock climbing at two state wild areas in Fayette County.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), announced Tuesday the move to State Game Lands 51 (SGL 051) and State Game Lands 138 (SGL 138).
SGL 051 is located in the townships of Connellsville, Dunbar, Springfield, Stewart and Wharton and is approximately 16,954 acres; and SGL 138 is located in Georges Township and is 2,918 acres.
Because of their rugged sandstone formations, these areas are popular with rock climbers.
The Game Commission’s Southwest Region director, Jason Farabaugh, said climbers and climbing groups are typically respectful of wildlife and habitat and supportive of conservation; However, the same formations that attract climbers also serve as critical habitat for plant and animal species.
The increased climbing has eroded lichen and moss on the cliff faces and removed vegetation and naturally occurring wood debris and foliage from the bases of the climbing cliffs, state officials said. These changes have destroyed habitat and impacted the reptile, amphibian, and mammalian species that use it.
“The rocks provide shelter from predators, wintering habitats and grounds for foraging,” said Chris Urban, PFBC coordinator for non-game, threatened and endangered species. “This habitat should be preserved in its natural state if these species are to thrive there.”
State wildlife areas differ from other public lands in that their primary purpose is to provide wildlife habitats and hunting and trapping opportunities for license buyers. Other recreational activities in wildlife areas are often permitted, although some activities are prohibited or restricted during hunting or trapping season.
“While state wild areas provide the public with places to hunt, trap and otherwise lawfully enjoy the great outdoors, the preservation of habitats that support wildlife species and the protection of those species is an integral part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wildlife system and mission,” the said Commission Executive Director, Bryan Burhans. “Performing on this mission on a daily basis is a big reason we have the wildlife we do in Pennsylvania and places to enjoy them.”