Author: Nicole Qualtieri, Gear Junkie

More than 37,000 easements exist on our public lands. Only 5,000 of them are easily accessible to the public. The MAPLand Act aims to change that and more.

Access to public land isn’t always cut and dry. And unfortunately, a bevy of information across land management agencies is currently hidden away in paper files. Furthermore, it’s often located in the institutional knowledge of land managers.

In 2018, the digital mapping brand onX worked in partnership with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to identify inaccessible public lands in the West. Their research turned up 9.52 million inaccessible acres.

Noticed by lawmakers, outdoor brands, and conservationists alike, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act seeks to address this lack of access.

The Access Problem at Hand

Whether hunting, hiking, camping, or biking, understanding regulations, private land boundaries, and easements is paramount to staying within the confines of the law. In some areas, it can require studying multiple maps that can be hard to find and decipher.

Some of the information isn’t even accessible to the public. And currently, only 5,000 of 37,000 known national public easements across private land are digitized.

What the Bill Does

Introduced by Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Martha McSally (R-Arizona) as well as Congressmen Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) and Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), the bill is garnering bipartisan support amid a partisan political culture.

If passed, the bill will aid the creation of a digitized database across public agencies. This would allow land managers to easily identify public access easements, projects, and historical use cases. It will provide $32.5 million across 3 years to specifically address the need for human resources and dedicated funding.

And the information it unearths will also ease the process of accessing grant funds through programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund that will help create access at problem points on public land.

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