H.R. 6127

Modernizing Access to Our Public Waters Act “MAPWaters” Act

Statement for the Record
Department of the Interior

House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries 

H.R. 6127, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Waters Act (MAPWaters) Act

November 14, 2023 

The Department of the Interior (Department) appreciates the opportunity to provide this statement for the record on H.R. 6127, the Modernizing Access to Our Public Waters (MAPWaters) Act. 

The Department generally supports the goals of the bill to consolidate, standardize, and simplify information related to outdoor recreation on public waters. However, the Department has implementation concerns informed by experiences implementing the MAPLands Act (P.L 117-114) which serves as the model for the MAPWaters Act. In particular, the Department has concerns related to exclusion of certain Federal agencies with jurisdiction over public waters, potential overlap with existing mandates, and challenges regarding agencies’ unique missions and mandates. The Department continues to review the text of the bill to fully understand the legislation’s technical implications.

Additionally, we believe the legislation would benefit from discussion with key stakeholders including other Federal agencies, State and local governments, Tribes, non-profits, private-sector groups, and members of our communities who must be included in any discussions about the future of recreation. The bill contains mandates for both the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Agriculture), and as such we defer to Agriculture for perspectives unique to their agency mission. We would also like to help avoid implementation challenges whereby two land and water-management entities, but not others, are required to make changes in the information associated with managing Federal lands and waterways, which could result in unintended consequences and confusion.

Section-by-Section Analysis

Section 3 of the bill requires that within 30 months, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior jointly develop and adopt interagency standards among applicable Federal databases that handle geospatial data relating to public outdoor recreational use of Federal waterways and Federal fishing restrictions. The Department notes that each agency and/or bureau uses standards that have been developed in coordination with each entity’s unique set of stakeholders and situations.  Selecting a new format may result in unintended consequences that will require additional time and resources to work through. Also, non-conflicting State regulations are also adopted as Federal regulations beyond what are listed in 36 CFR 2.3. This could result in the Department being responsible for data from States that are modified frequently and are unique to specific water bodies. The Department recommends that any standards are coordinated through the Federal Geographic Data Committee, which is the lead entity in the executive branch for the development, implementation, and review of policies, practices, and standards relating to geospatial data. In addition, the Department would like to work with the bill sponsors to define the scope of the bill more clearly.

Section 4 requires within four years to the extent practicable that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior shall digitize and make publicly available various data related to Federal waterway restrictions and Federal waterway access and navigation.  The Department notes that the bill requests detailed information on many different areas including access points, restrictions, boat ramps, wake zones, and direction of various uses of watercraft. Given both man-made and natural changes, such as water levels, and ambulatory boundaries occurring in general and at specific locations, this is a very large undertaking that will likely require additional staff to implement. The Department would like to work with the bill sponsors to clarify what could be accomplished at the authorized funding level. Based on experiences implementing the MAPLands Act, the Department recommends extending this period to five years from four. In addition, the Department notes that digitizing and publishing some of this information is already required under the MAPLands Act and FLAIR Act. We would like to work with the bill sponsors to address duplication with existing mandates in this section.

Section 5 (b) states that the Secretaries may work with the Director of the United States Geological Survey to collect, aggregate, digitize, standardize, and publish data on behalf of the Secretaries to meet the requirements of this Act. The Department notes that the United States Geological Survey and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service shall provide interdepartmental leadership and coordination as the designated co-leads of the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16 Waters-Inland Theme. The involvement of these bureaus for their advice and guidance on foundationalgeospatial datasets is critical for implementation plans. The Department notes that other Federal agencies that manage significant portions of Federal waterways, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as Tribal governments, are not mentioned in this bill.

Section 6 requires that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior submit an annual progress report through March 1, 2033, to the relevant Senate and House Committees. The Department would like to work with the bill sponsors to better understand what information should be provided in each annual update.


While the Department generally supports the intent of the bill, we would appreciate the opportunity to work with the bill sponsors to provide technical assistance to make sure the above concerns are addressed and lessons learned from previous implementation of similar bills are incorporated into our approach.

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