Bipartisan Bill on Joint Federal Lands Mapping Passes and is Signed into Law- Thank You Rep. Moore (and others)!


Photo by Rick Hutton borrowed from our friends at TRCP.

In the spirit of “catching people doing something right” here’s the announcement: and a special shout out to Rep. Moore of Utah who spearheaded this bipartisan, and dare I say common-sensical and much-needed effort.  Sometimes agencies need a little push to coordinate in a way that seems obvious to citizens.


“America is home to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, and it is essential that we have up-to-date information on how to best access our public lands,” Rep. Moore said. “The MAPLand Act will digitize tens of thousands of records so fishers, hikers, hunters, bikers, and those who spend time enjoying our outdoors have all the information they need to have great experiences and make fond memories.”

If enacted, H.R. 3113 specifically would require the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to jointly develop and adopt interagency standards to ensure compatibility and interoperability among federal databases for the collection and dissemination of outdoor recreation data related to federal lands, according to the congressional record bill summary.

Under the bill, the entities must digitize and publish geographic information system mapping data that includes federal interests, including easements and rights-of-way, in private land; status information as to whether roads and trails are open or closed; the dates on which roads and trails are seasonally opened and closed; the types of vehicles that are allowed on each segment of roads and trails; the boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational shooting is regulated or closed; and the boundaries of any portion of a body of water that is closed to entry, is closed to watercraft, or has horsepower limitations for watercraft, the summary says.

“I’m thrilled that the House has passed our MAPLand Act… which will modernize and formalize data sharing across public land agencies, to support our natural resource workforce, our communities and outdoor recreation activities,” said Rep. Neguse.


Here’s the link if you want to see the text.

Below is the interesting part of the text IMHO:

    (a) In General.--Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment 
of this Act, each of the Secretaries, to the maximum extent 
practicable, shall digitize and publish on the applicable agency 
website geographic information system mapping data that specifies, with 
respect to the relevant Secretary, all Federal interests in private 
land, including easements (other than flowage easements), reservations, 
and rights-of-way--
        (1) to which the Federal Government does not have a fee title 
    interest; and
        (2) that may be used to provide public recreational access to 
    the Federal land.
    (b) Public Comment.--The Secretaries shall develop a process to 
allow members of the public to submit questions or comments regarding 
the information described in subsection (a).
    (a) In General.--Beginning not later than 5 years after the date of 
enactment of this Act, each of the Secretaries, to the maximum extent 
practicable, shall make publicly available on the website of the 
Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Corps of 
Engineers, as applicable, geographic information system data with 
respect to the following:
        (1) Status information with respect to whether roads and trails 
    on the Federal land are open or closed.
        (2) The dates on which roads and trails on the Federal land are 
    seasonally closed.
        (3) The classes of vehicles and types of recreational uses that 
    are allowed on each segment of roads and trails on the Federal 
    land, including the permissibility of--
            (A) off-highway vehicles;
            (B) motorcycles;
            (C) nonmotorized bicycles;
            (D) electric bicycles;
            (E) passenger vehicles;
            (F) nonmechanized transportation; and
            (G) over-snow vehicles.
        (4) The boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational 
    shooting (including archery, firearm discharge, and target 
    shooting) is permanently restricted or prohibited on the Federal 
    (b) Updates.--
        (1) In general.--The Secretaries, to the maximum extent 
    practicable, shall update the data described in subsection (a) not 
    less frequently than twice per year.
        (2) Public comment.--The Secretaries shall develop a process to 
    allow members of the public to submit questions or comments 
    regarding the information described in subsection (a).
    (c) Effect.--Geographic information system data made publicly 
available under subsection (a) shall not disclose information regarding 
the nature, location, character, or ownership of historic, 
paleontological, or archaeological resources, consistent with 
applicable law.


Harkening back to the “dispersed camping” discussion.. the bill seems to be about roads and trails and shooting.. but it seems like the maps could possibly include dispersed camping as well if the agencies want to; or drone policies, or ???.

10 thoughts on “Bipartisan Bill on Joint Federal Lands Mapping Passes and is Signed into Law- Thank You Rep. Moore (and others)!”

  1. As a huge mapping nerd, I wholeheartedly approve. I’ve been playing around a lot lately with the GIS data released in various travel management processes, both creating maps of the various alternatives in ArcGIS and using them to add roads to OpenStreetMap, which is like Wikipedia for maps and powers a lot of commonly used outdoor mapping apps.

    It’s been frustrating how inconsistent a lot of it is and how difficult it is to find. Both the BLM and Forest Service have GIS data portals which have some more commonly used datasets available, but I know there is a ton more out there that isn’t made public. Then there’s GIS data that is made public as part of various NEPA processes, but it’s spread across all the individual NEPA project pages and isn’t made available in one central location.

    In terms of roads, overall the Forest Service has much better GIS data than the BLM because it publishes the MVUMs, but they have different data sets that are weirdly inconsistent. There’s the MVUM Roads and Trails dataset, and then there’s the Forest Roads and Trails dataset, both of which have all designated forest roads in the country. Both of those are similar but include different information for each road, and I’ve found some places where they each show the same road in completely different places! It would be nice if this resulted in harmonizing those a bit.

    The BLM’s data varies even more widely. The Colorado BLM office actually publishes a statewide GIS dataset of all roads and trails, but the Utah BLM does not. For Utah I’ve been having to rely on datasets released piecemeal for each travel management area. It would be really nice if this legislation resulted in the BLM releasing nationwide or at least statewide datasets for all designated roads and trails.

    As to Sharon’s point, I also hope it does result in the agencies releasing GIS data for camping restrictions and drone restrictions. I recently managed to obtain shapefiles for the BLM’s camping restrictions around Moab through a FOIA request and the actual GIS files are way more useful for determining where camping is allowed than the low quality Avenza map they publish. There’s also an area where the Moab Field Office has prohibited launching and landing drones near two particular canyons which is basically impossible to properly comply with because the maps released in the NEPA process were so low quality.

    One final thought, I wonder how this law squares with this legal settlement that just happened regarding one of the BLM travel management plans in Utah: There, the BLM actually agreed to delete all maps and GIS files from the project page for an already completed travel plan while it “re-considers” the designations for certain routes. It’s also prohibited from publishing any maps showing the routes being re-considered, even though it’s supposed to have a public comment period before making a final decision, which seems to violate NEPA.

  2. Wow! I didn’t see this one coming. It is dearly needed. This could help reduce trespassing and also remove questions sportsmen have when in the field about route legality. It remains to be seen how the agencies will manage ebike routes that often traverse from Forest Service to BLM. Since the Forest Service decided to manage ebikes with terminology conflicting with the BLM, I think problems will arise, with routes maybe getting opened or closed to suit whims of whatever agency exercises dominance.

    • Greg,
      This reminds me of a National Forest trail that goes over a small piece of Park Service.. dogs, no dogs, dogs.. on the same trail. I. Do you need to carry your dog over the corner?Is it the “mere presence” or the “paw on the ground”? Or the Park Service could make a special exception based on the short distance?

      I’m sure problems will arise, and there will be struggles for agency dominance.. but at the end of the day, it’s needed.

  3. This is ugly; its a trojan horse for public lands conservation, for biodiversity, for protection of the public trust; not a word, at least in the part displayed above, about EA or EIS, about protection of ecosystems, or about securing public lands as a public trust. Just more blatant pandering to commerce and wreckreation.

    • Brian, I’m not following you.. are you saying that people not knowing what they can’t do (aren’t supposed to do) is better???

      • Yeah I’m confused too. Not sure what realistic argument anyone could make about giving the public better maps of public lands. Though as seen in the SUWA case I mentioned, there does seem to be a certain interest among environmental groups in hiding mapping information from the public.

    • Thank you, I’ve been saying much the same since the advent of Onx and GoogleEarth, which, along with ultralight gear and the emergence of the “hardcore” recreational mentality, there isn’t a corner of the west (except the private landscape) that isn’t impacted by people constantly pushing to get where nobody else can (except that someone has already been there and someone is on their way).

      Gone are the days when a few of us inside the agencies would make blueline copies of limited availability aerial photos and sneak off quietly to hunt isolated canyons or fish unnamed lakes. Increasingly, studies are demonstrating growing impacts and conflicts from growing numbers of people in what was formerly remote, and often, very sensitive habitats. Technology, even with all the positives it brings, makes the world much smaller.

      While my hunter friends are celebrating this development, along with the Wyoming corner-hopping “win”, some of my colleagues and I are trying to figure out what happens when the last refuges fall prey to the “make it cheaper and easier” excess of consumerism.

  4. A large group of hunting, fishing and wildlife organizations (34) just sent a letter to Congressional appropriators seeking $5.5 million a year to both Interior and USDA and $2.5 million to the Corp of Engineers to implement MAPLand.

  5. It’s hard to oppose more/better information, but it will be interesting to see how the factions use it to argue that they don’t have enough and others have too much. One “access” piece that jumps out at me as being missing is identifying public lands that are not accessible to the public because they are blocked by private land. I’m sure some people (maybe even the Representative from Utah?) would not like this information to be highlighted, but maybe this new effort can help us with that problem any way.

    • That’s been a major project OnX has been working on, identifying landlocked parcels of public land. It will be interesting if this turns up a bunch of previously forgotten easements that mean a lot of these parcels aren’t actually landlocked. I imagine some ranchers will be ticked at having to suddenly start allowing the public to cross their land and access public lands they’ve had all to themselves.


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