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DCNR Begins Implementing Michaux Forest Recommendations

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan Wednesday announced the department will move forward on the recommendations of a task force of stakeholders to improve and reopen for a three-year period a public shooting range on the Michaux State Forest in Franklin County.
            The range, originally opened in 2003, was closed in June 2010 due to maintenance issues; a need to develop baseline measures of lead and other contaminants associated with small arms; and ongoing misuse and vandalism at the site.
            “DCNR is responsible for managing our state forest for multiple uses and values that sometimes conflict. There’s often a challenge with a high impact activity such as shooting sports and the many other forest user groups,” Allan said. “We work to provide a bridge-building role in these situations which was the reason for the task force and public process.”
            The site of the closed range is a former borrow pit and was already used as a range for several years, making it more attractive than an undisturbed remote area of the forest.
            There will be a number of improvements made to the site, and management policies and procedures put in place, including:
-- A fence with lockable gates;
-- Limiting range hours to avoid early morning and late evening hours and splitting the week roughly in half between open and closed days (for example either Saturday or Sunday each weekend, and 2.5 days during the week);
-- A site monitoring and mitigation plant will be developed for contaminants commonly associated with target ranges;
-- A surrounding berm on both the handgun and rifle range that will deflect the noise straight up around the range area; and
-- One non-use weekend day every month to facilitate volunteer cleanup and maintenance efforts to meet outlined standards.
            “During the three year period, we will collect good, hard data to determine if operation of the range is sustainable, and then we’ll make a permanent decision about the future of the range,” Allan said.
            Allan added that the task force will be expanded to involve local academic and other experts to develop contaminant protocols and the site management plan to protect visitor safety, wildlife and prevent ground and surface water contamination.
            “The development of the plan and a number of other management issues need to be put in place, as well as site improvements, before the range will actually be open again, making timing difficult to predict,” Allan said.
            He noted the most optimistic scenario for re-opening would be fall 2012.
            “The proposal to reopen the shooting range is in keeping with our mission to manage the forests in a way that makes them accessible to the public; balances the needs of various stakeholders including hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts; and continues to protect and sustain the forest for future generations,” Allan said.
            Michaux State Forest encompasses more than 85,000 acres in the South Mountain area of Cumberland, Franklin and Adams counties. Considered Pennsylvania's "cradle of forestry," Michaux is the site of first forestry school, Mont Alto. The forest is named for the French botanist, Andre Michaux, who discovered and named many plants in the 18th century.


5/7/2012

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