John Palatiello, MAPPS executive director, recently testified at the hearing for the "Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act of 2017" on behalf of MAPPS and NSPS. The bill, which aims to to create a current, accurate federal inventory or "cadastre" of all federal land, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Palatiello stated at the May 23 hearing. “The fact is the federal government does not know what it owns, where it owns it, what condition it is in [or] whether it is still in the public interest for the government to own it.”
Starting in 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) began listing federal real property management on its High Risk List due to the likelihood of “fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement,” and the need for reforms.
Despite the federal government's efforts to better address management and ownership challenges with federal lands, a 2016 GAO report found that a range of challenges in managing real property still exist due to a lack of reliable data, complex disposal processes and costly environmental requirements. The FLAIR Act will improve transparency and promote greater efficiency and cost savings for federal land management and ownership.
The FLAIR Act, H.R. 2199, was introduced in April by Representatives Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Ron Kind (D-WI), earning praise from MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms. "We commend Reps. Kind and Cramer for working in a bipartisan manner," says MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John "JB" Byrd.
A national cadastre has been recommended by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and the FLAIR Act has been endorsed by its Committee on Land Parcel Databases.
"At a time when Congress is looking to cut spending, add revenue and protect investments, it is imperative that agencies identify and eliminate duplicative and wasteful activities using geographic information systems (GIS) and provide accountability for the real property the federal government owns," says MAPPS President Susan Marlow, GISP, Stantec and a member of the National Academy Parcel Committee.
The FLAIR Act will provide all agencies owning federal real property an improved, spatially-enabled "cadastre" of their land assets. Such a consolidated geographically enabled information system will assist in improved federal land management, resource conservation, environmental protection, utilization of real property, identify property the federal government no longer needs to own, and increase revenue to the government by improving the collection of royalties and other fees from the public lands. The bill also calls for an inventory of existing inventories to eliminate duplicate or obsolete systems and save tax dollars.
"Versions of the FLAIR Act have previously passed the House Natural Resources Committee and the full United States Senate. The early introduction and hearing on the bill in the current Congress is a positive sign that this Congress will enact it into law," Byrd says.
Formed in 1982, MAPPS is a national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the U.S. The MAPPS membership spans the entire spectrum of the geospatial community, including member firms engaged in satellite and airborne remote sensing, surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, LiDAR, hydrography, bathymetry, charting, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. MAPPS also includes associate member firms, which are companies that provide hardware, software, products and services to the geospatial profession in the U.S. and other firms from around the world.