House Natural Resources Committee Seeks to Expand Access for Sportsmen and Women

Highlights

  • Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee (Committee) voted unanimously to pass the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act, as well as the Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act.
  • The MAPLand Act was introduced in bipartisan fashion in May by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Blake Moore (UT) and Reps. Russ Fulcher (ID), Joe Neguse (CO), and Kim Schrier (WA) with the goal of providing more certainty to public land users.
  • The VIP Act was introduced in early July by Reps. Miller-Meeks (IA) and Gallego (AZ) to reduce barriers to entry for our nation’s Veterans and servicemembers.

Why it matters: The MAPLand Act and the VIP Act would help expand access on our nation’s federal public lands by providing hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters with enhanced digital and GPS technologies, as well as establishing free passes for our nation’s Veterans to access and recreate on these federal public lands.

For many land management agencies much of the public land mapping information is still held in paper format. This 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 response to this lack of digitized documentation, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the MAPLand Act, which will provide more certainty to America’s sportsmen and women. 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.

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.

Continuing its support for increasing access for all Americans, the Committee also passed the Veteran’s in Park Act. Outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, plays a critically important role in the lives of many Veterans and servicemembers. By establishing free annual and lifetime America Beautiful Passes to our nation’s current service members, the VIP Act will reduce the barriers to entry for these selfless individuals to participate in various forms outdoor recreation.

Both bills await further action in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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