The Great Outdoors: Jefferson County Was Home to First Conservation School

Within the PA Great Outdoors region is a State Game Lands that holds considerable historic significance.

State Game Lands No. 54, more than 19,000 acres in size, is located in Jefferson County, a few miles outside of Brockway.

The terrain is mountainous and wooded and shares its northeastern boundary with State Game Lands 44 in Elk County.

SGL 54 is also the home of the original Ross Leffler School of Conservation, opened 85 years ago.

The property and camp were bought from a Pittsburgh attorney, Meredith Marshall, who hunted there.

The school was the first of its kind in the world, according to the PA Game Commission.  Nearly 900 people took classes at the school with 716 becoming State Game Protectors, as they were known then.

The remainder took special classes that were offered there.

The Leffler School became the model for schools in the rest of the country. Most of the classes taught there centered on wildlife conservation and law enforcement.

The school was moved to a wing at the PGC’s Harrisburg’s headquarters in 1987.

Today, SGL 54 is much quieter.

Recently, Brandi and I spent a few hours there. We had been there a number of years ago for a small game hunting.

While the area is mainly inhabited by white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and black bear, there are a few rabbits around, too.

I did see a doe and two fawns while we roamed, but with our late start, not much else.

There was one, comical red squirrel that posed for a few pictures as we neared the end of the walk. He perched on top of a post where a bird box stood.

Our walk also included checking out a small, select timber cut that was next to a rock outcrop that overlooked a large valley. While the roads are gated, most of them are very level, making walking easy for just about anyone.

Empire Ridge Road, which cuts through the game lands, is open mainly during the big game hunting seasons. It is also open for mountain biking.

For more information about the State Game Lands and other points of interest, visit or

“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.

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