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Senate Committee Advances Two Priority Public Lands Bills

MAPLand Act and Ruby Mountains Protection Act move one step closer to the finish line

(Washington, D.C.)—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed important legislation that would digitize public land maps and records for outdoor recreation and safeguard an iconic Western landscape from development.

Both the Modernizing Access to our Public Land Act (S.904) and the Ruby Mountains Protection Act (S.609) received markups in the committee hearing.

The MAPLand Act passed with unanimous support. With only a few minor technical modifications, the bill will now be referred to the floor for consideration by the full chamber. The House companion bill (H.R. 3113) similarly cleared its committee markup in July. The Ruby Mountains Protection Act passed out of committee by a vote of 12-8.

“We thank the members of the committee for advancing these bills, which have become top-line priorities for hunters and anglers across the country,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The MAPLand Act will allow more Americans to get outdoors and share in the public land legacy that belongs to us all, while the Ruby Mountains Protection Act secures some of the best fish and wildlife habitats for future generations of sportsmen and sportswomen. We now encourage lawmakers in both the House and Senate to commit to final passage of these bills that will strengthen our hunting and fishing opportunities.”

Introduced in the Senate in March 2021 by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the Ruby Mountains Protection Act would prohibit oil and gas leasing in the Ruby Mountains, one of the most important landscapes in Nevada for fish, wildlife, and sportsmen and sportswomen. If passed into law, the bill would not affect other important uses of the area, including mining, but it would help ensure that future generations are able to experience the tremendous hunting and fishing opportunities in the Rubies.

Sportsmen and sportswomen have been among the most vocal in support of the bill. In 2019, fifteen hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation organizations formed the Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition to raise awareness—both around the state and in Washington, D.C.—of the potential threats that energy development poses to this habitat.

Introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year with bipartisan support, the MAPLand Act would direct federal land management agencies to consolidate, digitize, and make publicly available all recreational access information in a format that can be used with computer mapping programs and GPS applications.

These records include information about:

  • legal easements and rights-of-way across private land;
  • year-round or seasonal closures of roads and trails, as well as restrictions on vehicle-type;
  • boundaries of areas where special rules or prohibitions apply to hunting and shooting;
  • and areas of public waters that are closed to watercraft or have horsepower restrictions.

“Given fall hunting seasons are ongoing across the nation, public access is on the minds of millions of Americans,” said Fosburgh. “We are encouraged by the MAPLand Act’s progress, and we will continue to voice our support for this commonsense investment that—when passed into law—will help provide outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.”

Learn more about the MAPLand Act here.

Learn more about the Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition here.

Founded in 2002, the TRCP is the largest coalition of conservation organizations in the country, uniting and amplifying the voices of sportsmen and women by convening hunting and fishing groups, conservation organizations, and outdoor businesses to a common purpose.

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Source: Huntinglife