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MAPLand Act and Ruby Mountains Protection Act move one step closer to the finish line
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 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 with bipartisan support by Senator Jim Risch of Idaho earlier this year, 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:
“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.
Durrell Smith is working to expand the narrative of the outdoors to include more Black and Brown voices through education, engagement, and media. Through his organization, the Minority Outdoor Alliance, he hopes to create pipelines for individuals from underrepresented communities to advance in the outdoor industry and become leaders in conservation policy. And this starts by giving hunters and anglers of every race and background a platform to share their own stories.
In just one example, the MOA recently awarded a $10,000 scholarship to support a young gun-dog enthusiast as he trains a Brittany spaniel puppy and develops an outdoor literature portfolio with the help of a mentor from the industry. In an Instagram post, Smith wrote: “We look at success as a ladder. There are people that have grabbed my hand and opened doors for me. And, it is my personal vow to create opportunities to help others. This is the start to that endeavor.”
Smith is a seasoned podcaster and natural storyteller himself—we highly recommend reading his essay in Outdoor Life about restoring his grandfather’s old shotgun—and he and his wife Ashley recently launched the MOA’s OUR OUTSIDE podcast to celebrate “Bringing the Unlikely to the Outdoors.”
We’re proud to have Minority Outdoor Alliance join the TRCP as our latest organizational partner and welcome Durrell Smith to our Policy Council, which guides the conservation policy issues we work on in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
Here is his story.
I was introduced early on to hunting by shooting backyard squirrels with my grandfather, who taught me how to fish, too. In my adulthood, I developed a love for bird dogs and pursuing upland game and have since continued a career and life in the outdoors.
These days, I still love to hunt local, but if I could go anywhere, I would hunt along the Mexican border for Montezuma quail, in Montana for sharptails and Huns, or in Argentina for perdiz. I’d like to fish in the Adirondacks again or in Key West.
Conservation powers my outdoor life through actions and efforts to conserve public land spaces, particularly in the wild bobwhite quail country of Georgia’s Red Hills, where I run my bird dogs. I guide hunts on public land, as well, so the careful stewardship of our lands through conservation is directly related to my ability to introduce more newcomers to the outdoors, especially those in minority communities.
In fact, that’s one of the biggest conservation challenges where I live: Bringing more Black and Brown voices into the conversation and educating underrepresented communities on the North American Model of Conservation.
It is important for me to be involved in conservation, because I see myself as a model for my community and an advocate for those who were previously voiceless. Conservation efforts have historically excluded Black and Brown people, and that simply makes no sense. There are collective conservation efforts across the globe that are helping to save our planet, so it’s a simple idea that transcends the complex nature of racial and ethnic boundaries.
Here in Georgia, another one of our biggest challenges is restoring bobwhite quail habitat and increasing the number of quail statewide. My most memorable outdoor adventure to date was the day that my young pointer, Vegas, pointed and handled a covey of wild quail in South Georgia. I pray that my children and their children will be able to witness the same thing, the beautiful yet shocking flush of a covey of bobwhites, because of the work we are doing now.
Follow Durrell @thesportinglifenotebook and @minorityoutdooralliance. Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a questionnaire.
The House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) in a 228-206 vote tonight, advancing crucial conservation priorities for all Americans. The bill was passed by the Senate in August and now awaits the president’s signature.
“Making this commitment to our nation’s land, water, and wildlife signals that lawmakers understand the relationship between infrastructure and natural resources,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The provisions within this comprehensive package are not only worth the investment as we think about the future—many are long overdue. We look forward to President Biden signing and enacting this legislation that makes a strong commitment to conservation.”
Numerous provisions in the $1.2-trillion bipartisan deal are top TRCP priorities, including:
“The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the House tonight has not had the most straightforward path to completion, but the conservation provisions included in this package are a clear victory for American hunters and anglers, and they should be recognized and widely celebrated,” says Steve Kline, TRCP’s chief policy officer. “The impact of these investments will be felt by more than just migratory big game, waterfowl, and sportfish: Improving access, habitat, and water quality while lowering the risks of wildfire, drought, and storm damage will keep communities safer, boost our economy, and expand our hunting and fishing opportunities.”
We’d forgive you for losing track of what is at stake for fish and wildlife as House members continue to extend debate and negotiations on two critically important legislative packages: the budget reconciliation bill known as Build Back Better and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Both would be defining victories for this Congress and the administration. And both contain some very big wins for conservation.
A House vote on reconciliation will only push this process to the next step, which is Senate consideration. This is important, since the legislation could clinch once-in-a-generation investments in climate resilience and private land conservation. We hope to have more to share on that as things progress.
But there are numerous conservation provisions in the $1.2-trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal that are top TRCP priorities. And because the legislation passed out of the Senate in August, these would be headed to the president’s desk if the House can agree on final passage. Here’s what we’re rooting for as we watch this process closely:
Stay tuned to the TRCP blog and social media channels (@theTRCP) for the absolute latest.
Photo of the Capitol by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More