Not too long ago, hunters and anglers relied on maps and compasses to navigate their favorite public lands. Outdated maps, faded or missing signs, and illegally posted lands all added to the difficulty of knowing where you were and where you could be.
Nowadays, we have it much easier. The advances of digital technology and mapping programs allow us to know exactly where we are at all times. By taking a look at our GPS or phone, we are able to see not only access points to our public lands but also if there is a way to reach that faraway ridge or mountain lake. Many areas that are desired to reach are off limits due to being landlocked or gated off – fortunately those times are changing.
After the passage of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in 2019, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management began to implement a plan to identify public lands that have limited or no public access while also asking the public to assist in identifying areas that can provide greater access to hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities.
Additional legislation to help with access was introduced earlier this year. The Modernizing Access to our Public Land (MAPLand) Act would provide resources for our land management agencies to digitize mapping with available access and easements. Joel Webster, senior director of Western programs with Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, tells how the MAPLand Act could allow us to discover new public land opportunities in a previous blog post.
Public lands sportsmen and women can identify areas that could improve access. Without boots on the ground, many small parcels of land with restricted or no access would be overlooked. Fortunately, a new program being led by BHA Platinum Partner onX, with support from BHA, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, is being launched on June 24, 2020, that will allow users to identify areas with the need for improved access for outdoor recreation.
Report a Land Access Opportunity lets anyone provide a detailed description and location that can lead to improved access. From onX: “Once a location is submitted, the team at onX will add the location to a database, ensure that the description matches the location and follow up with the submitter if there are any questions. We’ll then send the submissions to our partners at RMEF, TRCP and BHA to review the locations together, research the area more thoroughly and then determine how to tackle each challenge. The more on-the-ground intel we receive through Report a Land Access Opportunity, the more holistic a picture we can provide to the nonprofits and land management agencies working to improve access.”
Anyone can submit a location with a detailed description about the area where improved access for outdoor recreation is needed. No onX membership is required, though onX members may share locations directly through the app using the Waypoint Sharing feature. Non-members may sign up for a free App trial or simply submit locations through the reporting form found here.
While we still should keep on carrying the old-fashioned paper map and compass, as batteries fail and electronics always magically happen to get wet, technology and working collaboratively with our partners will gain us more access to public lands and waters.