May 17, 2021

House Companion to 21st Century Public Land Mapping Bill Reintroduced


Why it matters:  Digital mapping and GPS technologies have fundamentally changed how sportsmen and women traverse federal lands. However, inconsistent, and outdated record keeping practices used by federal land management agencies limit the ability of sportsmen and women to fully take advantage of these technologies. The digitization of public easements, access points, rights-of-way, and other mapping information on public lands is critically important to ensuring that sportsmen and women are able to navigate public lands in a safe and legal manner.

Millions of America’s hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters rely on public lands and waters for recreation. Before planning a trip to a new area, any sportsmen and women can attest to the fact they spend countless hours glossing over maps on their computers or their handheld devices to get a better idea of the land or waterscape. However, a lack of clear and publicly available information often deters sportsmen and women from recreating on a given piece of public land.

Unfortunately, federal land management agencies most important to sportsmen and women, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service lack the necessary financial resources to digitize and modernize mapping information for the lands they manage.

Furthermore, for many land management agencies much of the information is still held in paper format, which is concerning as easements and rights-of-way information could be lost in perpetuity if proper documentation is lost or destroyed. For example, through no fault of their own, it is estimated the U.S. Forest has only digitized roughly 5,000 of their 37,000 recorded easements.

In order to fill this void, the MAPLand Act will authorize much needed financial resources over three years for the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Army to accelerate the modernization and digitization of public land mapping information. The MAPLand Act also requires that public land management agencies make their information publicly available on their respective websites to be easily accessible by the public.

If enacted, the MAPLAND Act would provide better information as to: easements and rights-of-ways, whether roads and trails are open to the public, allowable types of vehicles, hunting and recreational shooting boundaries, and information on allowable types of watercraft, which is all vital information to sportsmen and women.

The introduction of the MAPLand Act builds off the reintroduction of a companion bill to MAPLand that was introduced in the Senate on March 23 by CSC Member Sen. Risch (ID) as well as CSC Leaders Sens. Martin Heinrich (NM) and Joe Manchin (WV), among others.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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