The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Cooperative Safety Zone Program is aimed toward providing a better landowner-hunter relationship and improved hunting conditions at a time when residential and industrial development and farm consolidation annually chip away at available hunting territory. Thousands of acres are lost annually. Losses are even occurring on State Game Lands as homebuilders erect dwellings near borders, effectively making segments of State Game Lands closed to hunting.
The primary intent of the more than 50-year-old Cooperative Public Safety Zone Program is to heighten safety zone awareness and provide better protection to farm residents and their properties. It is hoped that the added security this program provides through visibly unmistakable warning signage will encourage more landowners who currently close their lands to hunting and/or trapping to reconsider.
At present, thousands of Pennsylvanians are participating in this program. Their farms and properties, located in nearly every county of the state, comprise more than 1.1 million acres. The program has been attracting cooperators since its inception in 1954. Many are drawn to it because of the program's benefits and the peace of mind it provides.
To become a Safety Zone Program cooperator, the owner or person in legal control of a farm, containing a minimum of 50 acres, executes a simple agreement with the Game Commission. This agreement may be cancelled upon 60 days written notice.
Hunting for or disturbing game, or discharging firearms within 150 yards of occupied dwellings or other farm buildings is unlawful except by specific permission of the landowner or tenant. The cooperating farmer erects Safety Zone posters which are supplied free of charge by the Game Commission, through the local Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO). These signs must be erected not more than 150 yards from farm buildings. The penalty for violating the Safety Zone Law is determined by the magistrate and includes costs of prosecution.
The farm, with the exception of the established Safety Zone, must be open to lawful public hunting. The landowner or tenant may hunt within the Safety Zone and may grant permission to others to do so. Local WCOs will occasionally patrol roads adjacent to your land to ensure individuals who enter your property obey laws and regulations.
The Pennsylvania Landowner Liability Act limits landowner liability toward individuals who enter their property for recreational purposes. The State of Pennsylvania encourages landowners to make their property available to the public for recreational purposes such as hunting and trapping, and to enjoy the benefits these cooperative arrangements can provide.
The Game Commission has strived to create programs that reinforce the important relationship between hunters and farmers for more than 70 years, because the agency has always recognized that the future of hunting depends upon ethical behavior of its participants. When hunters demonstrate respect to landowners and their property, they get an additional places to hunt, and landowners have someone to help them manage game populations.
Further information on the Cooperative Public Safety Zone Program may be obtained from Game Commission field officers, six region offices or the Bureau of Land Management at the Harrisburg headquarters.