CASPER — Outdoor recreation is poised to become more accessible.
A bill to modernize mapping of federal lands that was championed by Wyoming’s U.S. senators cleared Congress last week and headed to the president’s desk.
The Modernizing Access to Our Public Land, or MAPLand, Act allocates $47 million to federal land management agencies for the digitization and online publication of maps detailing how public lands can be accessed, when roads and trails are open or closed, what types of vehicles are permitted on those roads and where certain activities, such as hunting, fishing and shooting, are allowed.
Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, Republicans from Wyoming, both co-sponsored the bill, which was introduced in the Senate a year ago and in the House of Representatives last May. Approved by the House last month, the bill cleared the Senate by unanimous consent vote last week.
“The legislation will help boost our growing outdoor recreation industry, as well as the many businesses located near or on public lands,” Barrasso wrote in a Casper Star-Tribune column last year.
Much of Wyoming’s public land is surrounded on all sides by private land. Under current state law, it’s unclear whether the controversial practice of corner crossing — stepping from the corner of one private-landlocked parcel of public land to another — is legal or not.
As Barrasso’s column noted, nondigitized agency records, including agreements with landowners allowing access to public lands via private property, can be inaccessible to recreationists.
“The bill will help fishermen, hunters, and hikers to easily plan their adventures,” Barrasso said in a statement Friday.
Some of the West’s most prominent outdoors and conservation groups have watched the bill’s progress closely and celebrated its passage last week.
“Inadequate or faulty data can spell disaster for the public land hunter,” Land Tawney, president and CEO of Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said in a statement. “The importance of reliable, comprehensive information on access opportunities on our public lands cannot be overstated.”