Why It Matters: There are seven federal agencies under four different cabinet-level secretaries that have some degree of jurisdiction and regulatory authority over what hunters, anglers, and boaters can or cannot do on navigable waters. The MAPWaters Act recently introduced in the Senate will require certain federal agencies to pool their regulatory data into one map that is readily available and accessible by the public so that the American public can confidently enjoy our nation’s public waters. Following the successful passage of the MAPLand Act to digitize public access on federal lands, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been working with our partners to implement a similar directive on federal waters.
- The U.S. Forest Service manages or co-manages over 5,000 miles of rivers designated as “Wild and Scenic” alone.
- The Bureau of Reclamation manages 294 reservoirs that see 90 million visitors each year.
- Rather than tracking down information on permitted uses of federal waters through waterbody specific websites or publications, the MAPWater Act will provide the public with a one-stop-shop for the nation’s hunters, anglers, and boaters to get the information they need for a successful day on the water.
Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Senator John Barrasso (WY) and CSC Senate Vice-Chair Senator Angus King (ME) introduced the Modernizing Access to Our Public Waters Act, also known as the MAPWaters Act. The bill seeks to eliminate confusion for public recreation on our nation’s waterways through standardizing, consolidating, and publishing digital data concerning regulations on waters under federal management.
“Access is often cited as the number one challenge for hunter and angler participation,” said Jeff Crane, President and CEO of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “Even for something as simple as fishing or boating on federal public waters, it can be challenging to know how you can access those waters and what equipment you can use. We applaud the MAPWaters legislation as a way to remove that barrier and provide anglers and boaters with the information they need at their fingertips to get out on the water worry free.”
The MAPWaters Act will direct federal agencies to digitize and make available to the public any access or recreational use restriction on federal waterways. The MAPWaters Act will direct the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to modernize and digitize their public land and water mapping information.
From inland rivers on Forest Service lands to reservoirs under management by the Bureau of Reclamation, anglers and boaters will significantly benefit from knowing not only where they can access rivers and water bodies, but also understanding regulations on things such as waters open or closed to certain types of watercrafts, horsepower restrictions, aquatic invasive species inspection requirements, or what baits or lures are allowed for fishing, among others. A companion bill to address similar information needs is in the works for the Secretary of Commerce (federal marine waters) and the Secretary of the Army (rivers and reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers).