Summary Observations

Landslides occur in many geographic regions, in response to a wide variety of conditions and processes, and result in substantial damages. Losses include significant environmental and societal costs as well as direct and indirect financial losses. The committee is convinced that a national program to coordinate efforts to reduce the risks posed by landslides is required, and commends the USGS for taking a leadership role by proposing a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy. The national program presented in USGS Open-File Report 00–450 (Spiker and Gori, 2000) represents an initial approach to the challenging problem of establishing a mechanism to bring together the substantial but uncoordinated efforts of various agencies, researchers, and consultants throughout the country to understand, identify, and mitigate landslides. The committee considers that the strategy proposed by the USGS is both timely and conceptually sound in broad outline, and agrees that the emphasis on partnerships is appropriate and necessary.

Although some landslides are due to human activity, others are unavoidable natural processes that occur on apparently undisturbed land, and this differing causality may require attention by a number of different regulating authorities. Complexities inevitably arise when landslides cross ownership and jurisdictional boundaries and cause damage to both public and private resources. Therefore, an integrated program where the roles and responsibilities of multiple agencies are defined must be developed. The committee is satisfied that the proposed USGS national strategy has identified most major partners, and notes that some detail concerning the potential USGS role in a national program has been presented. Additional definition of the roles and responsibilities of the other major partners will be required. The committee recognizes the considerable challenge involved in formulating a partnership strategy of such complexity. Different states, and different agencies within states, have variable approaches to hazard mapping and mitigation, and any comprehensive national approach must accept and work with this absence of uniformity.

Although more detailed advice concerning implementation and funding strategies will be the focus of the committee’s final report, the following comments are offered as interim guidance:

  • In general, the strategy is structured in a top-down fashion with the USGS taking a lead and providing service and guidance to other agencies. Other structures may provide more effective or cost-efficient landslide hazard risk reduction.

  • To produce mitigation of landslide risk at the local level, the program will need to support state and local mapping, hazard reduction, and education projects. Strong cooperative programs will be required with state geological surveys, highway departments and other responsible agencies. Although



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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report Summary Observations Landslides occur in many geographic regions, in response to a wide variety of conditions and processes, and result in substantial damages. Losses include significant environmental and societal costs as well as direct and indirect financial losses. The committee is convinced that a national program to coordinate efforts to reduce the risks posed by landslides is required, and commends the USGS for taking a leadership role by proposing a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy. The national program presented in USGS Open-File Report 00–450 (Spiker and Gori, 2000) represents an initial approach to the challenging problem of establishing a mechanism to bring together the substantial but uncoordinated efforts of various agencies, researchers, and consultants throughout the country to understand, identify, and mitigate landslides. The committee considers that the strategy proposed by the USGS is both timely and conceptually sound in broad outline, and agrees that the emphasis on partnerships is appropriate and necessary. Although some landslides are due to human activity, others are unavoidable natural processes that occur on apparently undisturbed land, and this differing causality may require attention by a number of different regulating authorities. Complexities inevitably arise when landslides cross ownership and jurisdictional boundaries and cause damage to both public and private resources. Therefore, an integrated program where the roles and responsibilities of multiple agencies are defined must be developed. The committee is satisfied that the proposed USGS national strategy has identified most major partners, and notes that some detail concerning the potential USGS role in a national program has been presented. Additional definition of the roles and responsibilities of the other major partners will be required. The committee recognizes the considerable challenge involved in formulating a partnership strategy of such complexity. Different states, and different agencies within states, have variable approaches to hazard mapping and mitigation, and any comprehensive national approach must accept and work with this absence of uniformity. Although more detailed advice concerning implementation and funding strategies will be the focus of the committee’s final report, the following comments are offered as interim guidance: In general, the strategy is structured in a top-down fashion with the USGS taking a lead and providing service and guidance to other agencies. Other structures may provide more effective or cost-efficient landslide hazard risk reduction. To produce mitigation of landslide risk at the local level, the program will need to support state and local mapping, hazard reduction, and education projects. Strong cooperative programs will be required with state geological surveys, highway departments and other responsible agencies. Although

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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report the proposed USGS program does incorporate cooperative projects with state and local agencies and with private industry, the committee believes that even greater emphasis is needed in this area. A variety of approaches to establishing landslide inventories, with mapping forming an important but not the sole component, should be included in a national landslide hazard mitigation strategy. The committee suggests that the proposed strategy would benefit from development of additional partnerships: with the financial community, as an important element for reducing financial loss caused by landslides; with educators at all levels; and with Canadian and Mexican authorities, both for mitigating risk that extends across national borders, and to promote mutually beneficial information exchange. Landslide mitigation typically involves decisions at the local level, and a lack of information about landslide distribution and degree of hazard appears to be a major constraint to providing better mitigation in many areas. Informed decisions require adequate information concerning landslide mechanisms and mitigation alternatives, and this information must be available to all sectors of society. A national landslide hazard mitigation strategy must include extensive outreach, educational, and technology transfer components if it is to successfully address the diversity and breadth of landslide hazards. In addition, the committee anticipates that salient issues to be addressed in its final report will include the following: The status of the science of landslide processes and future research directions. The role and application of landslide hazard susceptibility mapping and landslide monitoring. Potential administrative structures to enable participation by the diverse range of stakeholders and partners in funding and implementation decisions. Improved education and information transfer: for decision-makers to assist the regulatory environment; for planners, scientists, and engineers involved with landslide mitigation; and for the general public. The role and application of risk assessment methods to the prioritization of landslide hazard mitigation activities.

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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report References NRC [National Research Council], 1991. A Safer Future: Reducing the Impacts of Natural Disasters. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 76 pp. NRC [National Research Council], 1996. Landslides: investigation and mitigation. A.K. Turner and R.L.Schuster (Editors); Transportation Research Board Special Report, 247. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 673 pp. NRC [National Research Council], 2001. Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 179 pp. Schuster, R.L., 1996. Chapter 2: Socioeconomic Significance of Landslides. Pp. 12–35 in Turner, A.K. and Schuster, R.L. (Eds): Landslides: investigation and mitigation. Transportation Research Board, Special Report 247. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Spiker, E.C., and Gori, P.L., 2000. National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: A Framework for Loss Reduction. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00–450; 49 pp.

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