view The National Map as more than a single map or a static atlas. Rather, it will be a spatial database covering the United States and territories as a continually updated, “cooperative” topographic map. In this report the committee views The National Map as a digital product, a long-term research and production core project for the Geography Discipline. This definition is more restrictive than the use of the term by the USGS, where it is used to encompass almost all the activities of the Geography Discipline. The committee believes that the activities of the Geography Discipline should be more wide-ranging than The National Map, involving several lines of geographic investigation in the Critical Zone. Currently, the Geography Discipline compiles, integrates, and maintains databases that form the foundation of The National Map, but many additional datasets from outside the Survey will also be included. For example, street and highway locations and alignments will be derived from proprietary data, as well as federal data including human census data from the Bureau of the Census, agricultural data from the Department of Agriculture, and airport, railway, and port data from the Department of Transportation. The USGS is the appropriate agency to serve as the focal point of these various data streams and their expression in The National Map because the Survey is congressionally mandated to serve as the nation’s manager of spatial data in the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The USGS also has a historical foundation for its role as primary manager of spatial data. The Survey is the national purveyor of authoritative maps, and The National Map is a logical extension of that activity.
The proposed project is ambitious, requiring appropriate funding and considerable expertise in the processing of geographic information. The project is intended to provide integrated geospatial digital data for the nation, which will enable advancement in geographic research at the USGS, and promote the application of geographic information in decision making.
Unprecedented collaboration and partnerships among agencies, private organizations, and individuals will be necessary to develop and continually update The National Map (USGS, 2001b). Creation of The National Map involves much more than simply digitizing the current topographic maps; it requires a seamless geospatial database that has information from individual topographic maps restructured to achieve the goal of a map without edges. As discussed in Chapter 3, this information is currently available in fragmented form in individual topographic quadrangle maps, but the new database will require seamless integration of the information from the full set of quadrangle maps. Another goal of The National Map is the capability to update individual database elements as soon as change occurs in the landscape. The average age of the quadrangle maps is 23 years, and the current update cycles for paper topographic maps are unacceptable to modern users. Updating the paper-printed product is inefficient and costly. The goal for The National Map is to