Barrasso: MAP Land Act will make accessing Wyoming's federal lands simpler and safer

Across Wyoming, hunters are running into a consistent problem. They are unable to easily access maps showing which land is open to the public for hunting and which land is private property.

A checkerboard pattern of Bureau of Land Management land and private real estate makes it difficult to navigate. This lack of public information is a serious problem for sportsmen and landowners alike. I am cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to fix it.

This problem is not unique to Wyoming. Across 11 Western states, 6.35 million acres of public land is inaccessible because it borders private land and the public doesn’t know how to access it. Eastern states like Maine and West Virginia face similar issues.

In many cases, easements have been made with private land owners to allow the public to cross their property and gain access to federal lands. The problem is the public is unaware. Most of these easements only exist on paper and have no digital record.

According to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, of the roughly 37,000 recorded easements at the U.S. Forest Service, only about 5,000 are publicly accessible in a digital format. The lack of accessible information means hunters, fishermen and hikers are left on their own.

That’s why I am cosponsoring the Modernizing Access to our Public (MAP) Land Act. This legislation will create a public digital platform anyone can use to find out how to access federal lands and waters.

The MAP Land Act will require the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, to create a digital mapping system for the public. This system will be made available online so anyone can determine the borders between public land and private land.

The platform will clearly tell the public which road or trail to use to access public lands. It will also highlight the boundaries of where recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting are permitted.

The MAP Land Act isn’t just great for landowners and Americans who love the outdoors, it’s great for America’s economy too. The legislation will help boost our growing outdoor recreation industry, as well as the many businesses located near or on public lands.

Increasing access to public lands in Wyoming will increase the number of visitors in our restaurants, hotels and small businesses.

Over 150 sportsmen and conservation groups already support the MAP Land Act. It’s no wonder the legislation boasts true bipartisan support. The bill is supported by five Republicans, three Democrats and an independent.

As the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I am working closely with fellow-MAP Land Act cosponsor and committee chairman Joe Manchin, to move the bill forward.

The MAP Land Act will make accessing our public lands and waters simpler and safer. It will give landowners peace of mind that their property rights are protected, while also allowing outdoorsmen and women to easily access America’s public lands.

The people of Wyoming understand the importance of protecting and enjoying the natural wonders in our state. The MAP Land Act will increase access to those wonders, so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

John Barrasso, a Republican, represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate and is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.