March 29, 2021

Mapping the Future of Public Lands: Congress Introduces Bill to Digitize Mapping Experience for Hunters and Anglers


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GPS technologies have fundamentally changed how sportsmen and women traverse federal lands, however, inconsistent, and outdated record keeping practices among federal land management agencies hinders the ability of sportsmen and women to fully take advantage of these technologies. 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 can 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 sportsperson 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, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service, lack the necessary financial resources needed 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 if proper documentation is lost or destroyed. For example, 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 necessary 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 federal land management agencies make their information publicly available on their respective websites so they can be easily accessible for the public.

If enacted, the MAPLAND Act would provide better information about easements and rights-of-way, 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 – all of which is vital information for sportsmen and women.

On July 2, 2020, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and conservation partners sent a letter to members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate urging the cosponsorship and support of the MAPLand Act to enhance outdoor recreation for sportsmen and women and other outdoor recreationalists. Modernizing mapping information is vital to bringing public land recreation into the 21st century.

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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