Flash back to early June 2007.
Just a couple weeks earlier I had left my stationary home in Florida and set off across the country in a small 16′ T@b trailer with Chris. My crazy adventure of full time RVing had just begun, fueled by biodiesel and the “anything is possible” energy of a new romance.
After a hectic couple of weeks of the typical newly-on-the-road chaos, we were now exploring on our own schedule.
We were keeping a steady pace, working our way from landmark to landmark on our maiden voyage together – trying to combine seeing as much of this great country as we could while still in a hurry to get to a wedding in California.
- Capulin Mountain. Check.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Check.
- Colorado Monument. Check.
We were working our way west into the vast wilderness and abundance of public lands.
This particular morning nearly seven years ago, we left Arches National Park in Moab, UT and we didn’t have a specific plan for where we’d stop for the night. This had been Chris’s typical style before we met, but being a planner myself I was still getting used to embracing diving into the unknown.
No campgrounds or rest areas were serendipitously found, and as the day was drawing to a close with the sun setting in front of us, I was getting more than a little uneasy.
But then Chris mentioned that he thought we were surrounded by lands owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and we could probably park nearby overnight with no worry.
He pulled off Interstate 70, and tucked us in on a pull out down a side dirt road. It was our very first night boondocking in the wilds together.
After parking, Chris got out to admire the amazing sunset. He kept cajoling me to come out and join him.
But I was too nervous.
I think I was expecting a bright neon ‘BLM Lands welcomes you, Cherie – rest well!‘ sign or something. Or maybe a park ranger greeting us with wine & cheese and personally inviting us to stay the night?
Or at the very least a ‘OK to Camp Here‘ sign.
But there was nothing to indicate that we were actually on public land.
All I could think was – what if we had pulled on to some rancher’s private road, and he was loading up his rifle now?
At the time, I was packing a Windows based smartphone with internet access. We had a horrendously slow very weak 1xRT signal, and I huddled over it missing my first in-the-wild sunset trying to find anything online that would tell me we were ok for the night.
But no maps I could access showed local BLM land boundaries.
And there was no easy way to cross reference our current location on the rudimentary high level BLM maps I could pull up on their website.
Why isn’t there an app for this?!?
I could however confirm that the BLM did manage land in this general area. Well, most of Utah it seemed actually, and we were in Utah.
Learning that – I was able to get to sleep at last.
But I awoke at 5am with nightmares of a sheriff, a rancher, and a cow (don’t ask) banging on our door to rustle us out.
I shook Chris awake and told him we had to leave.
Flash forward a few years…
When we first came up with the idea for our Coverage? app a few years back (it overlays the four major cellular carrier’s data maps) – I immediately remembered the app I craved that first restless night, and wondered if we could do something similar with maps of publicly owned lands.
But after a bit of research – we put the idea on the back burner until we could either find time to manually create public land overlays, or perhaps some public domain source of data in a usable format.
One morning last summer I stumbled upon the National Atlas, a government run public domain source of cartographic information. One component of the National Atlas included the details and boundaries of federally operated public lands. They even explicitly invite people to make products out of the raw map data!
Just like that first boondocking early morning, I again shook Chris out of his slumber to start brainstorming turning that old app vision into a reality.
And now presenting our latest mobile app – ‘US Public Lands’
The US Federal Governments owns nearly 650 million acres of land – almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States.
These are lands that are held for all Americans.
Up until now, there has been no quick & easy way to retrieve the boundaries of these properties without carrying physical maps, books, or slowly digging deep online.
Included in this app are on device (fully works offline), individually selectable & beautifully colored layers for all of the properties administered by the federal government that are more than 640 acres in size:
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- US Forest Service (FS)
- National Park Service (NPS)
- BLM – National Monuments
- Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE)
- US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Reclamation
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- Department of Defense (military bases & installations)
- Other (National Laboratories, Test Sites, etc…)
Get it now:
Key Benefits & Features
- Know which US agency owns and operates the land you’re on or are heading to. Use the Setting’s ‘gear’ to select which agencies you want displayed to create your own custom map. (Hint, the toggles are color coded to the color each layer is displayed in.)
- Links are provided to each agency’s website within the app, so that you can further your research as to what land use rules apply for each public land type – such as permits, fees, activities allowed, and limits of stay.
- Know where boundaries are between public lands and private lands.
- Map layers are stored on device – no internet connection required.
- Be sure to turn on the ‘Basic’ base map to see the US Public Land labels for each land area. This base map layer is also stored entirely on your device, and can be utilized if you do not have an internet connection or would like to conserve bandwidth.
- If you have an internet connection, you can utilize Apple’s standard and satellite view maps as well as the base layer underneath the public land overlays.
- A boondocker’s assistant – by turning on the Satellite view map, you can better scout out trails, roads and boondock camping locations within the boundaries of the public land resources. Quickly toggle between ‘Show’ and ‘Hide’ to more clearly see satellite images below.
- If you have GPS access on your device, click the ‘Locate Me’ arrow to show your present location – know what type of land you’re on right now!
- Built in search tool locates anything that Apple maps supports (requires internet access) – including cities, states, zip codes, addresses and points of interest. A pin is dropped at the search location.
- Universal App – iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. iOS 7.1 and higher.
Get it now:
But US Public Lands isn’t just the guts of ‘Coverage?’ with our layers based upon the National Atlas database instead of cellular coverage maps.
US Public Lands has been newly written from the ground up, and is using completely new core technologies for overlaying and organizing data like this. It’s smoother, more advanced, and easily enables more features like satellite maps and a simple fully-offline base map.
And… it’s designed to be more portable too! This means that a version for Android and even a Mac Desktop release will be possible without as much fuss as it would have required trying to migrate the engine behind the original ‘Coverage?’ map overlays.
And you betcha, our Android development partner Hired Gun Software has already released an Android version of US Public Lands.
And… Now that we’ve designed a new core technology for enabling our mapping apps – we plan for the next release of ‘Coverage?’ to also take advantage of this new engine to gain a bunch of new features. Which means it too will become possible to be ported to Android.
Yup, Hired Guns is on that too. Yay!
So nearly 7 years later, I can finally rest well knowing – yes indeed, we were on BLM land that restless night long ago.
I’ll let Chris sleep in next time.