BOX 1.1
Mission of the USGS National Mapping Program

“To accomplish its mission, the Office of the Associate Director for Geography conducts the National Mapping Program to meet the Nation’s need for basic geospatial data, ensuring access to and advancing the application of these data and other related earth science information for users worldwide. The responsibility of the National Mapping Program is to ensure the production and availability of basic cartographic and geographic spatial data of the country; coordinate national geospatial data policy and standards; provide leadership for the management of earth science data and for information management; acquire, process, archive, manage, and disseminate the land remote sensing data of the Earth; and improve the understanding and application of geospatial data and technology.”

SOURCE: Michael Domaratz, USGS, personal communication of a planned revision to the Department of the Interior manual, 2002.

anew based on the principles of photogrammetry and air photograph interpretation pioneered and advanced during World War II. By 1991 the 1:24,000-scale paper topographic base map of the United States was complete, although Alaska remained mostly covered at the 1:63,360 scale.

Today the USGS’s primary topographic map series includes more than 55,000 unique map sheets and 220,000 digital orthorectified images. Although this ranks as a great, if unsung, scientific accomplishment, most of the nation’s map coverage1 is out of date. Paper map sheets in the USGS’s primary map series are on average 23 years old (USGS, 2001). Map timeliness, a function of the rapidity and effectiveness of map revision, remains a critical national need. At the same time, events such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and recent natural disasters have shown that current information in the public domain can save lives and protect public and private property. The demand is great for up-to-date information for public welfare and safety.

Yet even before the completion of the monumental undertaking of mapping the nation, mapping methodology began to transform itself around the digital information revolution.2 Paper maps now meet only a


Geographic extent of coordinates in the map database.


Hence, the committee uses the term map, as in The National Map, not in the strict sense of a paper graphic depiction of a scaled symbolization of geographical

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