Salt Lake City, UT – The Mule Deer Foundation’s President/CEO testified today in front of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources on legislation that will help fund digital mapping of access and allow more efficient, effective multiple-use management of public lands. Joel Pedersen spoke in support of the Modernizing Access to our Public Lands Act (MAPLand Act; H.R. 3113) to the members of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee. The MAPLand Act would improve digital mapping of easements and rights-of-way across private lands, making it possible for the public to identify places to hunt, fish, and participate in other forms of outdoor recreation. The bill also requires land management agencies to provide information about seasonal allowances and restrictions for vehicle use on public roads and trails as well as boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational shooting is regulated or closed.
“The Mule Deer Foundation believes that the MAPLand Act will make more information about our public lands available at our fingertips. This will improve access to our public lands, and also better distribute use across the landscape, reduce user conflicts, and improve recreational experiences,” said MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “MDF is proud to be part of the sportsmen’s community that has led the charge and championed this legislation that will positively impact all user groups.”
Across the West, more than 9.52 million acres of federal public lands have no permanent legal means of access and, in many places, historical access to public lands across private property continues to decline. Most access easement records are still held on paper files at local offices and have yet to be integrated into digital mapping systems. For example, the U.S. Forest Service alone has an estimated 37,000 recorded easements, approximately 5,000 of which have been digitized and uploaded into an electronic database. However, the federal land management agencies lack the resources and capacity needed to undertake digitization of documents related to the lands they administer. The MAPLand Act will help meet this growing demand by authorizing $31 million over three years to allow the agencies to standardize and complete the digitization of information regarding recreational access and allowable activities on millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the United States. Last July, 43 hunting and fishing organizations sent a letter of support to Congress for the MAPLand Act through the American Wildlife Conservation Partners.
“Digital mapping and GPS technologies have revolutionized the ways in which sportsmen and women navigate public lands; however incomplete and inconsistent mapping data prevents outdoor enthusiasts from realizing the full benefit of these technologies,” Pedersen said in his testimony. “The relatively minimal investment proposed in the MAPLand Act will allow taxpayers to identify opportunities to access the lands that they own, drive recreation to more areas, and as a result yield exponential returns on this investment for state and local economies throughout the country.”
In his written testimony, Pedersen also referenced another bill, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act; H.R. 3670), that the subcommittee was considering. The SOAR Act would improve the permitting process for commercial outfitters and guides, educational and nonprofit organizations, and community groups wishing to access public lands.
“Guides and outfitters play an important role in helping hunters, anglers, and other recreationists access and enjoy the outdoors. A significant percentage of these guides and outfitters utilize federal public lands and their ability to apply for and receive permits to do so is critical to their ability to help Americans, particularly those new to outdoor pursuits, enjoy their public lands,” Pedersen notes. “MDF is pleased to support the SOAR Act, which will streamline and simplify the permitting process through the federal land management agencies.”
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting mule deer and black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved in your state or become a member at www.muledeer.org or call 1-888-375-3337.