June 21, 2021

MAPLand Act Continues to Navigate Congressional Committees


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 However, inconsistent and outdated record keeping practices among federal land management agencies hinders the ability of sportsmen and women to fully take advantage of these technologies, which will be addressed in part by the MAPLand Act. The MAPLand Act has now received a hearing in both chambers of Congress, which is a critical step forward to enacting this legislation into law.

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 sportsman and woman can likely attest to spending 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 Service has only digitized roughly 5,000 of their 37,000 recorded easements.

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 publish their information on their respective websites to be easily accessible by the public.

If enacted, the MAPLAND Act would provide better information about 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 watercrafts—all of which is all vital information for sportsmen and women.

Both bills await to be scheduled for further consideration by their respective committees.

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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