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United States Geological Survey created

United States Geological Survey created

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Congress establishes the United States Geological Survey, an organization that played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West.

Although the rough geographical outlines of much of the American West were known by 1879, the government still had astonishingly little detailed knowledge of the land. Earlier federal exploratory missions under men like Ferdinand Hayden and John Wesley Powell had begun to fill in the map, yet much remained to be done. Congress decided to transform the earlier system of sporadic federal geological explorations into a permanent government agency, the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

From the beginning, the USGS focused its efforts on practical geographical and geological investigations that might spur western economic development. Since the vast majority of the nation’s public land was in the West, the USGS became one of the federal government’s most important tools for encouraging the exploitation of western natural resources. Congress appointed Clarence King, a brilliant young mining engineer and geologist, as the first director. King, who had previously done considerable work for western mining companies, viewed the USGS as a tool for aiding further mineral exploitation. As a result, the first major reports produced under King’s tenure concerned the economic geology of two important mining districts, Nevada’s Comstock Lode and Colorado’s Leadville silver district.

King’s attempts to aid western mining won him praise from both mining companies and western congressmen, but King was eager to make his own fortune in the mining business. He resigned as director in 1881 to pursue what he hoped would be more lucrative opportunities. John Wesley Powell, a bold geologist-explorer who had led the first American explorations of the Grand Canyon, succeeded King as director.

Powell extended the work of the survey into new areas like paleontology and soon became controversial for his bold assertion that much of the arid West would remain unsettled without large-scale irrigation projects. The direct and plainspoken Powell was so closely associated with the USGS during his 14-year term as director that many people have mistakenly believed he was the first director of the agency. Despite his expansion of the survey’s mission, though, Powell never abandoned the practical economic emphasis established by King.

Subsequent directors of the USGS also remained true to King’s early focus on aiding the economic development of the West, providing topographical and geological maps that have continued to prove essential to the mineral, agricultural and hydraulic development of the region to this day.

United States Geological Survey created - HISTORY

The U.S. Geological Survey was established by an act of Congress on March 3, 1879, to provide a permanent Federal agency to conduct the systematic and scientific "classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain." An integral part of that mission includes publishing and disseminating the earth-science information needed to understand, to plan the use of, and to manage the Nation's energy, land, mineral, and water resources.

Since 1879, the research and fact-finding role of the USGS has grown and been modified to meet the changing needs of the Nation it serves. As part of the evolution, the USGS has become the Federal Government's largest earth-science research agency, the Nation's largest civilian mapmaking agency, the primary source of data on the Nation's surface- and ground-water resources, and the employer of the largest number of professional earth scientists. Today's programs serve a diversity of needs and users. To accomplish its mission, the USGS:

-- Conducts and sponsors basic and applied research in geology, hydrology, mapping, and related sciences.

-- Produces and updates geographic, cartographic, and remotely sensed information in graphic and digital forms.

-- Describes the onshore and offshore geologic framework and develops an understanding of its formation and evolution.

-- Assesses energy and mineral resources, determines their origin and manner of occurrence, and develops techniques for their discovery.

-- Collects and analyzes data on the quantity and quality of surface water and ground water, on water use, and on quality of precipitation.

-- Assesses water resources and develops an understanding of the impact of human activities and natural phenomena on hydrologic systems.

-- Evaluates hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, toxic, materials, landslides, subsidence, and other ground failures, and develops methods for hazards prediction.

-- Participates in the exploration of space and prepares geologic and other maps of the planets and their satellites.

-- Publishes thousands of reports and maps each year, establishes and maintains earth-science data bases, and disseminates earth-science data and information.

-- Provides scientific and technical assistance for the effective use of earth-science techniques, products, and information.

-- Coordinates topographic, geologic, and land-use mapping, digital cartography, and water-data activities.

-- Develops new technologies for the collection, coordination, and interpretation of earth-science data.

-- Provides scientific support and technical advice for legislative, regulatory, and management decisions.

Along with its continuing commitment to meet the growing and changing earth-science needs of the Nation, the USGS remains dedicated to its original mission to collect, analyze, interpret, publish, and disseminate information about the natural resources of the Nation-providing "Earth Science in the Public Service."


The National Geodetic Survey is an office of NOAA's National Ocean Service. Its core function is to maintain the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS), "a consistent coordinate system that defines latitude, longitude, height, scale, gravity, and orientation throughout the United States". [1] NGS is responsible for defining the NSRS and its relationship with the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). The NSRS enables precise and accessible knowledge of where things are in the United States and its territories.

The NSRS may be divided into its geometric and physical components. The official geodetic datum of the United States, NAD83 defines the geometric relationship between points within the United States in three-dimensional space. The datum may be accessed via NGS's network of survey marks or through the Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network of GPS reference antennas. NGS is responsible for computing the relationship between NAD83 and the ITRF. The physical components of the NSRS are reflected in its height system, defined by the vertical datum NAVD88. This datum is a network of orthometric heights obtained through spirit leveling. Because of the close relationship between height and Earth's gravity field, NGS also collects and curates terrestrial gravity measurements and develops regional models of the geoid (the level surface that best approximates sea level) and its slope, the deflection of the vertical. NGS is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the NSRS over time, even as the North American plate rotates and deforms over time due to crustal strain, post-glacial rebound, subsidence, elastic deformation of the crust, and other geophysical phenomena.

NGS will release new datums in 2022. [2] The North American Terrestrial Reference Frame of 2022 (NATRF2022) will supersede NAD83 in defining the geometric relationship between the North American plate and the ITRF. [3] United States territories on the Pacific, Caribbean, and Mariana plates will have their own respective geodetic datums. The North American-Pacific Geopotential Datum of 2022 (NAPGD2022) will separately define the height system of the United States and its territories, replacing NAVD88. [3] It will use a geoid model accurate to 1 centimeter (0.4") to relate orthometric height to ellipsoidal height measured by GPS, eliminating the need for future leveling projects. This geoid model will be based on airborne and terrestrial gravity measurements collected by NGS's GRAV-D program as well as satellite-based gravity models derived from observations collected by GRACE, GOCE, and satellite altimetry missions. [4]

NGS provides a number of other public services. [5] It maps changing shorelines in the United States and provides aerial imagery of regions affected by natural disasters, enabling rapid damage assessment by emergency managers and members of the public. The Online Positioning and User Service (OPUS) processes user-input GPS data and outputs position solutions within the NSRS. The agency offers other tools for conversion between datums.

Earliest years Edit

The original predecessor agency of the National Geodetic Survey was the United States Survey of the Coast, created within the United States Department of the Treasury by an Act of Congress on February 10, 1807, to conduct a "Survey of the Coast." [6] [7] The Survey of the Coast, the United States government ' s first scientific agency, [7] represented the interest of the administration of President Thomas Jefferson in science and the stimulation of international trade by using scientific surveying methods to chart the waters of the United States and make them safe for navigation. A Swiss immigrant with expertise in both surveying and the standardization of weights and measures, Ferdinand R. Hassler, was selected to lead the Survey. [8]

Hassler submitted a plan for the survey work involving the use of triangulation to ensure scientific accuracy of surveys, but international relations prevented the new Survey of the Coast from beginning its work the Embargo Act of 1807 brought American overseas trade virtually to a halt only a month after Hassler ' s appointment and remained in effect until Jefferson left office in March 1809. It was not until 1811 that Jefferson ' s successor, President James Madison, sent Hassler to Europe to purchase the instruments necessary to conduct the planned survey, as well as standardized weights and measures. Hassler departed on August 29, 1811, but eight months later, while he was in England, the War of 1812 broke out, forcing him to remain in Europe until its conclusion in 1815. Hassler did not return to the United States until August 16, 1815. [8]

The Survey finally began surveying operations in 1816, when Hassler started work in the vicinity of New York City. The first baseline was measured and verified in 1817. However, Hassler was taken by surprise when the United States Congress – frustrated by the slow and limited progress the Survey had made in its first decade, unwilling to endure the time and expense involved in scientifically precise surveying, unconvinced of the propriety of expending U.S. Government funds on scientific endeavors, and uncomfortable with Hassler leading the effort because of his foreign birth – enacted legislation in 1818 removing him from the leadership of the Survey and suspending its operations. Congress believed that United States Army and United States Navy officers could achieve surveying results adequate for safe navigation during their routine navigation and charting activities and could do so more quickly and cheaply than Hassler, and it gave the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy responsibility for coastal surveys. Under this law, which prohibited the U.S. Government from hiring civilians to conduct coastal surveys, the Survey of the Coast existed without a superintendent and without conducting any surveys during the 14 years from 1818 to 1832. [8]

Work resumes Edit

On July 10, 1832, Congress passed a new law renewing the original law of 1807, placing the responsibility for coastal surveying back in the Survey of the Coast and permitting the hiring of civilians to carry it out. Hassler was reappointed as the Survey ' s superintendent that year. The administration of President Andrew Jackson expanded and extended the Survey of the Coast ' s scope and organization. [9] : 468 The Survey of the Coast resumed field work in April 1833.

In July 1833, Edmund E. Blunt, the son of hydrographer Edmund B. Blunt, accepted a position with the Survey. The elder Blunt had begun publication of the American Coast Pilot – the first book of sailing directions, charts, and other information for mariners in North American waters to be published in North America – in 1796. Although the Survey relied on articles it published in local newspapers to provide information to mariners in the next decades, Blunt ' s employment with the Survey began a relationship between the American Coast Pilot and the Survey in which the Survey ' s findings were incorporated into the American Coast Pilot and the Survey ' s charts were sold by the Blunt family, which became staunch allies of the Survey in its disputes with its critics. Eventually, the relationship between the Survey and the Blunts would lead to the establishment of the Survey ' s United States Coast Pilot publications in the latter part of the 19th century. [10]

Association with United States Navy Edit

The United States Department of the Navy was given the control of the Survey of the Coast from 1834 to 1836, but on March 26, 1836, the Department of the Treasury resumed the administration of the Survey, which was renamed the United States Coast Survey in 1836. [7] The Navy retained close connection with the hydrographic efforts of the Coast Survey under law requiring Survey ships to be commanded and crewed by U.S. Navy officers and men when the Navy could provide such support. [11] Under this system, which persisted until the Survey was granted the authority to crew its ships in 1900, many of the most famous names in hydrography for both the Survey and Navy of the period are linked, as U.S. Navy officers and Coast Survey civilians served alongside one another aboard ship. In addition, the United States Department of War provided U.S. Army officers for service with the Survey during its early years. Hassler believed that expertise in coastal surveys would be of importance in future wars and welcomed the participation of Army and Navy personnel, and his vision in this regard laid the foundation for the commissioned corps of officers that would be created in the Survey in 1917 as the ancestor of today ' s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps. [12]

Growth years Edit

During the nineteenth century, the remit of the Survey was rather loosely drawn and it had no competitors in federally funded scientific research. Various superintendents developed its work in fields as diverse as astronomy, cartography, meteorology, geodesy, geology, geophysics, hydrography, navigation, oceanography, exploration, pilotage, tides, and topography. The Survey published important articles by Charles Sanders Peirce on the design of experiments and on a criterion for the statistical treatment of outliers. [13] [14] Ferdinand Hassler became the first Superintendent of Weights and Measures beginning in November 1830, and the Office of Weights and Measures, the ancestor of today ' s National Institute of Standards and Technology, was placed under the control of the Coast Survey in 1836 until 1901, the Survey thus was responsible for the standardization of weights and measures throughout the United States. [7] [12]

When it resumed operations in 1833, the Survey returned to surveys of the New York City area and its maritime approaches. Although U.S. law prohibited the Survey from procuring its own ships, requiring it to use existing public ships such as those of the Navy and the United States Revenue Cutter Service for surveying operations afloat, the U.S. Department of the Navy worked around the law by allowing Lieutenant Thomas R. Gedney to purchase the schooner Jersey for the Navy, then deeming Jersey suited only for use by the Survey. Under Gedney ' s command, Jersey began the Survey ' s first depth sounding operations in October 1834, and made its first commercially and militarily significant discovery in 1835 by discovering what became known as the Gedney Channel at the entrance to New York Harbor, which significantly reduced sailing times to and from New York City. [12]

In 1838, U.S. Navy Lieutenant George M. Bache, while attached to the Survey, suggested standardizing the markings of buoys and navigational markers ashore by painting those on the right when entering a harbor red and those on the left black instituted by Lieutenant Commander John R. Goldsborough in 1847, the "red right return" system of markings has been in use in the United States ever since. In August 1839, the Coast Survey made another kind of history when the Revenue Service cutter USRC Washington, conducting sounding surveys for the Coast Survey off Long Island under Gedney ' s command, intercepted the slave ship La Amistad and brought her into port. In the early 1840s, the Survey began work in Delaware Bay to chart the approaches to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [12]

Professor Alexander Dallas Bache became superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey after Hassler ' s death in 1843. [7] During his years as superintendent, he reorganized the Coast Survey and expanded its work southward along the United States East Coast into the Florida Keys. In 1846 the Survey began to operate a ship, Phoenix, on the United States Gulf Coast for the first time. By 1847, Bache had expanded the Survey ' s operations from nine states to seventeen, and by 1849 it also operated along the United States West Coast, giving it a presence along all coasts of the United States. [15] In 1845, he instituted the world ' s first systematic oceanographic project for studying a specific phenomenon when he directed the Coast Survey to begin systematic studies of the Gulf Stream and its environs, including physical oceanography, geological oceanography, biological oceanography, and chemical oceanography. Bache ' s initial orders for the Gulf Stream study served as a model for all subsequent integrated oceanographic cruises. [7] Bache also instituted regular and systematic observations of the tides and investigated magnetic forces and directions, making the Survey the center of U.S. Government expertise in geophysics for the following century. In the late 1840s, the Survey pioneered the use of the telegraph to provide highly accurate determinations of longitude known as the "American Method", it soon was emulated worldwide. [16]

Disaster struck the Coast Survey on September 8, 1846 when the survey brig Peter G. Washington encountereed a hurricane struck while she was conducting studies of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina. She was dismasted in the storm with the loss of 11 men who were swept overboard, but she managed to limp into port.

The Mexican War of 1846–1848 saw the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. Army officers from the Coast Survey and the Coast Survey brig Washington was taken over for U.S. Navy service in the war, but overall the war effort had little impact on the Coast Survey ' s operations. Army officers returned after the war, and the expansion of U.S. territory as a result of the war led to the Coast Survey expanding its operations to include the newly acquired coasts of Texas and California. [16] The famous naturalist Louis Agassiz studied marine life off New England from the Coast Survey steamer Bibb in 1847 and also conducted the first scientific study of the Florida reef system in 1851 under a Coast Survey commission [7] his son, Alexander Agassiz, later also served aboard Coast Survey ships for technical operations. [17] In the 1850s, the Coast Survey also conducted surveys and measurements in support of efforts to reform the Department of the Treasury ' s Lighthouse Establishment, [18] and it briefly employed the artist James McNeill Whistler as a draughtsman in 1854–1855. [19]

Ever since it began operations, the Coast Survey had faced hostility from politicians who believed that it should complete its work and be abolished as a means of reducing U.S. Government expenditures, and Hassler and Bache had fought back periodic attempts to cut its funding. By 1850, the Coast Survey had surveyed enough of the U.S. coastline for a long enough time to learn that – with a few exceptions, such as the rocky coast of New England – coastlines were dynamic and required return visits by Coast Surveyors to keep charts up to date. [18] In 1858, Bache for the first time publicly stated that the Coast Survey was not a temporary organization charged with charting the coasts once, but rather a permanent one that would continually survey coastal areas as they changed over time. [20]

Another significant moment in the Survey ' s history that occurred in 1858 was the first publication of what would later become the United States Coast Pilot, when Survey employee George Davidson adapted an article from a San Francisco, California, newspaper into an addendum to that year ' s Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey. Although the Survey had previously published its work indirectly via the Blunts ' American Coast Pilot, it was the first time that the Survey had published its sailing directions directly in any way other than through local newspapers. [10]

On June 21, 1860, the greatest loss of life in a single incident in the history of NOAA and its ancestor agencies occurred when a commercial schooner collided with the Coast Survey paddle steamer Robert J. Walker in the Atlantic Ocean off New Jersey. Robert J. Walker sank with the loss of 20 men. [21] [22]

A Coast Survey ship took part in an international scientific project for the first time when Bibb observed a solar eclipse from a vantage point off Aulezavik, Labrador, on July 18, 1860, as part of an international effort to study the eclipse. Bibb became the first Coast Survey vessel to operate in subarctic waters. [23]

American Civil War Edit

The outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861 caused a dramatic shift in direction for the Coast Survey. All U.S. Army officers were withdrawn from the Survey, as were all but two U.S. Navy officers. Since most men of the Survey had Union sympathies, all but seven of them stayed on with the Survey rather than resigning to serve the Confederate States of America, and their work shifted in emphasis to support of the Union Navy and Union Army. Civilian Coast Surveyors were called upon to serve in the field and provide mapping, hydrographic, and engineering expertise for Union forces. One of the individuals who excelled at this work was Joseph Smith Harris, who supported Rear Admiral David G. Farragut and his Western Gulf Blockading Squadron in the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip in 1862 this survey work was particularly valuable to Commander David Dixon Porter and his mortar bombardment fleet. Coast Surveyors served in virtually all theaters of the war and were often in the front lines or in advance of the front lines carrying out mapping duties, and Coast Survey officers produced many of the coastal charts and interior maps used by Union forces throughout the war. Coast Surveyors supporting the Union Army were given assimilated military rank while attached to a specific command, but those supporting the U.S. Navy operated as civilians and ran the risk of being executed as spies if captured by the Confederates while working in support of Union forces. [25] [7]

Post–Civil War Edit

Army officers never returned to the Coast Survey, but after the war Navy officers did, and the Coast Survey resumed its peacetime duties. The acquisition of the Territory of Alaska in 1867 expanded its responsibilities, as did the progressive exploration, settlement, and enclosure of the continental United States. [6] [25] George W. Blunt sold the copyright for the American Coast Pilot – the Blunt family publication which had appeared in 21 editions since 1796 and had come to consist almost entirely of public information produced by the Survey anyway – in 1867, and the Survey thus took responsibility for publishing it regularly for the first time, spawning a family of such publications for the various coasts of the United States and the Territory of Alaska in the coming years. [10] In 1888, the publications for the United States East and Gulf coasts took the name United States Coast Pilot for the first time, and the publications for the United States West Coast took this name 30 years later. NOAA produces the United States Coast Pilots to this day. [10]

In 1871, Congress officially expanded the Coast Survey ' s responsibilities to include geodetic surveys in the interior of the country, [6] [25] [7] and one of its first major projects in the interior was to survey the 39th Parallel across the entire country. Between 1874 and 1877, the Coast Survey employed the naturalist and author John Muir as a guide and artist during the survey of the 39th Parallel in the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah. [7] To reflect its acquisition of the mission of surveying the U.S. interior and the growing role of geodesy in its operations, the U.S. Coast Survey was renamed the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) in 1878. [6] [25] [7]

The American Coast Pilot had long been lacking in current information when the Coast Survey took control of it in 1867, and the Survey had recognized that deficit but had been hindered by a lack of funding and the risks associated with mooring vessels in deep waters or along dangerous coasts in order to collect the information necessary for updates. The U.S. Congress specifically appropriated funding for such work in the 1875–1876 budget under which the 76-foot (23-meter) schooner Drift was constructed and sent out under U.S. Navy Acting Master and Coast Survey Assistant Robert Platt to the Gulf of Maine to anchor in depths of up to 140 fathoms (840 feet/256 meters) to measure currents. [26] The Survey's requirement to update sailing directions led to the development of early current measurement technology, particularly the Pillsbury current meter invented by John E. Pillsbury, USN, while on duty with the Survey. It was in connection with intensive studies of the Gulf Stream that the Coast and Geodetic Survey ship USC&GS George S. Blake became such a pioneer in oceanography that she is one of only two U.S. ships with her name inscribed in the façade of the Oceanographic Museum (Musée Océanographique) in Monaco due to her being "the most innovative oceanographic vessel of the Nineteenth Century" with development of deep ocean exploration through introduction of steel cable for sounding, dredging and deep anchoring and data collection for the "first truly modern bathymetric map of a deep sea area." [27]

Crisis in the mid-1880s Edit

By the mid-1880s, the Coast and Geodetic Survey had been caught up in the increased scrutiny of U.S. Government agencies by politicians seeking to reform governmental affairs by curbing the spoils system and patronage common among office holders of the time. One outgrowth of this movement was the Allison Commission – a joint commission of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives – which convened in 1884 to investigate the scientific agencies of the U.S. Government, namely the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the United States Geological Survey, the United States Army Signal Corps (responsible for studying and predicting weather at the time), and the United States Navy's United States Hydrographic Office. The commission looked into three main issues: the role of geodesy in the U.S. Government's scientific efforts and whether responsibility for inland geodetics should reside in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey or the U.S. Geological Survey whether the Coast and Geodetic Survey should be removed from the Department of the Treasury and placed under the control of the Department of the Navy, as it had been previously from 1834 to 1836 and whether weather services should reside in a military organization or in the civilian part of the government, raising the broader issue of whether U.S. government scientific agencies of all kinds should be under military or civilian control. [28]

At the Coast and Geodetic Survey, at least some scientists were not prone to following bureaucratic requirements related to the funding of their projects, and their lax financial practices led to charges of mismanagement of funds and corruption. When Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, James Q. Chenoweth became First Auditor of the Department of the Treasury, and he began to investigate improprieties at the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, U.S. Geological Survey, and United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, more commonly referred to as the U.S. Fish Commission. He had little impact on the Geological Survey or the Fish Commission, but at the Coast and Geodetic Survey he found many improprieties. Chenoweth found that the Coast and Geodetic Survey had failed to account for government equipment it had purchased, continued to pay retired personnel as a way of giving them a pension even though the law did not provide for a pension system, paid employees whether they worked or not, and misused per diem money intended for the expenses of personnel in the field by paying per diem funds to employees who were not in the field as a way of augmenting their very low authorized wages and providing them with fair compensation. Chenoweth saw these practices as embezzlement. Chenoweth also suspected embezzlement in the Survey's practice of providing its employees with money in advance for large and expensive purchases when operating in remote areas because of the Survey's inability to verify that the expenses were legitimate. Moreover, the Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Julius Hilgard, was exposed as a drunkard and forced to resign in disgrace along with four of his senior staff members at Survey headquarters. [29]

To address issues at the Coast and Geodetic Survey raised by the Allison Commission and the Chenoweth investigation, Cleveland made the Chief Clerk of the Internal Revenue Bureau, Frank Manly Thorn, Acting Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey on July 23, 1885, and appointed him as the permanent superintendent on September 1. [30] [31] Thorn, a lawyer and journalist who was the first non-scientist to serve as superintendent, quickly concluded that the charges against Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel largely were overblown, and he set his mind to the issues of rebuilding the Survey's integrity and reputation and ensuring that it demonstrated its value to its critics. Ignorant of the Survey's operations and the scientific methods that lay behind them, he left such matters to his assistant, Benjamin J. Colonna, and focused instead on reforming the Survey's financial and budgetary procedures and improving its operations so as to demonstrate the value of its scientific program in performing accurate mapping while setting and meeting production deadlines for maps and charts. [32]

To the Survey's critics, Thorn and Colonna championed the importance of the Coast and Geodetic Survey's inland geodetic work and how it supported, rather than duplicated, the work of the Geological Survey and was in any event an important component of the Coast and Geodetic Survey's hydrographic work along the coasts. Thorn also advocated civilian control of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, pointing out to Cleveland and others that earlier experiments with placing it under U.S. Navy control had fared poorly. [33] Thorn described the Coast and Geodetic Survey's essential mission as, in its simplest form, to produce "a perfect map,". [34] and to this end he and Colonna championed the need for the Survey to focus on the broad range of geodetic disciplines Colonna identified as necessary for accurate chart- and mapmaking: triangulation, astronomical observations, levelling, tidal observations, physical geodesy, topography, hydrography, and magnetic observations. [35] To those who advocated transfer of the Coast and Geodetic Survey's work to the Navy Hydrographic Office, Thorn and Colonna replied that although the Navy could perform hydrography, it could not provide the full range of geodetic disciplines necessary for scientifically accurate surveying and mapping work.

In 1886, the Allison Commission wrapped up its investigation and published its final report. Although it determined that all topographic responsibility outside of coastal areas would henceforth reside in the U.S. Geological Survey, it approved of the Coast and Geodetic Survey continuing its entire program of scientific research, and recommended that the Coast and Geodetic Survey remain under civilian control rather than be subordinated to the U.S. Navy. It was a victory for Thorn and Colonna. [33] Another victory followed in 1887, when Thorn headed off a congressional attempt to subordinate the Survey to the Navy despite the Allison Commission's findings, providing Cleveland with information on the previous lack of success of such an arrangement. [33] When Thorn left the superintendency in 1889, the Coast and Geodetic Survey's position in the U.S. Government had become secure.

Before Thorn left the superintendency, the United States Congress passed a bill requiring that henceforth the president would select the superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey with the consent of the U.S. Senate. This practice has continued for senior positions in the Coast and Geodetic Survey and its successor organizations ever since. [36]

Later 19th century and early 20th century Edit

In the 1890s, while attached to the Coast and Geodetic Survey as commanding officer of George S. Blake, Lieutenant Commander Charles Dwight Sigsbee, USN, Assistant in the Coast Survey, [note 1] developed the Sigsbee sounding machine while conducting the first true bathymetric surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.

With the outbreak of the Spanish–American War in April 1898, the U.S. Navy again withdrew its officers from Coast and Geodetic Survey duty. As a result of the war, which ended in August 1898, the United States took control of the Philippine Islands and Puerto Rico, and surveying their waters became part of the Coast and Geodetic Survey's duties. [25] The Survey opened a field office in Seattle, Washington in 1899, to support survey ships operating in the Pacific Ocean as well as survey field expeditions in the western United States this office eventually would become the modern National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Center. [7]

The system of U.S. Navy officers and men crewing the Survey ' s ships that had prevailed for most of the 19th century came to an end when the appropriation law approved on June 6, 1900, provided for "all necessary employees to man and equip the vessels" instead of Navy personnel. The law went into effect on July 1, 1900 at that point, all Navy personnel assigned to the Survey ' s ships remained aboard until the first call at each ship ' s home port, where they transferred off, with the Survey reimbursing the Navy for their pay accrued after July 1, 1900. [37] Thereafter, the Coast and Geodetic Survey operated as an entirely civilian organization until May 1917.

In 1901, the Office of Weights and Measures was split off from the Coast and Geodetic Survey to become the separate National Bureau of Standards. It became the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1988. [38]

In 1904, the Coast and Geodetic Survey introduced the wire-drag technique into hydrography, in which a wire attached to two ships or boats and set at a certain depth by a system of weights and buoys was dragged between two points. This method revolutionized hydrographic surveying, as it allowed a quicker, less laborious, and far more complete survey of an area than did the use of lead lines and sounding poles that had preceded it, and it remained in use until the late 1980s. [39]

World War I Edit

Although some personnel aboard Coast and Geodetic Survey ships wore uniforms virtually identical to those of the U.S. Navy, the Survey operated as a completely civilian organization from 1900 until after the United States entered World War I in April 1917. To avoid the dangerous situation Coast Survey personnel had faced during the American Civil War, when they could have been executed as spies if captured by the enemy, a new Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps was created on May 22, 1917, giving the Survey ' s officers a commissioned status that protected them from treatment as spies if captured, as well as providing the United States armed forces with a ready source of officers skilled in surveying that could be rapidly assimilated for wartime support of the armed forces. [25]

Over half of all Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps officers served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps during World War I, and Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel were active as artillery orienteering officers, as minelaying officers in the North Sea (where they supported the laying of the North Sea Mine Barrage), as troop transport navigators, as intelligence officers, and as officers on the staff of General John "Black Jack" Pershing. [25]

Interwar period Edit

During the period between the world wars, the Coast and Geodetic Survey returned to its peaceful scientific and surveying pursuits, including land surveying, sea floor charting, coastline mapping, geophysics, and oceanography. [25] In 1923 and 1924, it began the use of acoustic sounding systems and developed radio acoustic ranging, which was the first marine navigation system in history that did not rely on a visual means of position determination. These developments led to the Survey ' s 1924 discovery of the sound fixing and ranging (SOFAR) channel or deep sound channel (DSC) – a horizontal layer of water in the ocean at which depth the speed of sound is at its minimum – and to the development of telemetering radio sonobuoys and marine seismic exploration techniques. [38] The Air Commerce Act, which went into effect on May 20, 1926, among other things directed that the airways of the United States be charted for the first time and assigned this mission to the Coast and Geodetic Survey. [38]

In 1933, the Coast and Geodetic Survey opened a ship base in Norfolk, Virginia. From 1934 to 1937, it organized surveying parties and field offices to employ over 10,000 people, including many unemployed engineers, during the height of the Great Depression. [38] [40]

World War II Edit

When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, all of this work was suspended as the Survey dedicated its activities entirely to support of the war effort. Over half of the Coast and Geodetic Corps commissioned officers were transferred to either the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, or United States Army Air Forces, while those who remained in the Coast and Geodetic Survey also operated in support of military and naval requirements. About half of the Survey ' s civilian work force, slightly over 1,000 people, joined the armed services. [25]

Officers and civilians of the Survey saw service in North Africa, Europe, and the Pacific and in the defense of North America and its waters, serving as artillery surveyors, hydrographers, amphibious engineers, beachmasters (i.e., directors of disembarkation), instructors at service schools, and in a wide range of technical positions. Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel also worked as reconnaissance surveyors for a worldwide aeronautical charting effort, and a Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps officer was the first commanding officer of the Army Air Forces Aeronautical Chart Plant at St. Louis, Missouri. Coast and Geodetic Survey civilians who remained in the United States during the war produced over 100 million maps and charts for the Allied forces. Three Coast and Geodetic Survey officers and eleven members of the agency who had joined other services were killed during the war. [25]

Post–World War II Edit

Following World War II, the Coast and Geodetic Survey resumed its peacetime scientific and surveying efforts. In 1945 it adapted the British Royal Air Force ' s Gee radio navigation system to hydrographic surveying, ushering in a new era of marine electronic navigation. In 1948 it established the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu Hawaii. [38] The onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s led the Survey also to make a significant effort in support of defense requirements, such as conducting surveys for the Distant Early Warning Line and for rocket ranges, performing oceanographic work for the U.S. Navy, and monitoring nuclear tests. [38]

In 1955, the Coast and Geodetic Survey ship USC&GS Pioneer (OSS 31) conducted a survey in the Pacific Ocean off the United States West Coast towing a magnetometer invented by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The first such survey in history, it discovered magnetic striping on the seafloor, a key finding in the development of the theory of plate tectonics. [38]

The Coast and Geodetic Survey participated in the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. During the IGY, 67 countries cooperated in a worldwide effort to collect, share, and study data on eleven Earth sciences – aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations for precision mapping, meteorology, oceanography, seismology, and solar activity. [38]

In 1959, the Coast and Geodetic Survey ' s charter was extended to give it the responsibility for U.S. Government oceanographic studies worldwide. [25] In 1963, it became the first U.S. Government scientific agency to take part in an international cooperative oceanographic/meteorological project when the survey ship USC&GS Explorer (OSS 28) made a scientific cruise in support of the EQUALANT I and EQUALANT II subprojects of the International Cooperative Investigations of the Tropical Atlantic (ICITA) project. [41] [42] [43] A Coast and Geodetic Survey ship operated in the Indian Ocean for the first time in 1964, when Pioneer conducted the International Indian Ocean Expedition. [44]

ESSA and NOAA years Edit

On July 13, 1965, the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), was established and became the new parent organization of both the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the United States Weather Bureau. [6] [38] At the same time, the Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps was removed from the Survey ' s direct control, subordinated directly to ESSA, and renamed the Environmental Science Services Administration Corps, or "ESSA Corps." As the ESSA Corps, it retained the responsibility of providing commissioned officers to man Coast and Geodetic Survey ships. [6] [25] [38]

On October 3, 1970, ESSA was expanded and reorganized to form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Coast and Geodetic Survey ceased to exist as it merged with other government scientific agencies to form NOAA, but its constituent parts lived on, with its geodetic responsibilities assigned to the new National Geodetic Survey, its hydrographic survey duties to NOAA ' s new Office of Coast Survey, and its ships to the new NOAA fleet, while the ESSA Corps became the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, or "NOAA Corps". In 2009, former NOAA Corps officer Juliana P. Blackwell was named as Director of the National Geodetic Survey and become the first woman to head the oldest U.S Federal science agency.

The National Geodetic Survey, Office of Coast Survey, and NOAA fleet all fell under control of NOAA ' s new National Ocean Service. [6] [25]

Documentation: The computer model HYDROTHERM, A three-dimensional finite-difference model to simulate ground-water flow and heat transport in the temperature range of 0 to 1,200 °C: by D.O. Hayba and S.E. Ingebritsen, U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4045, 1994, 85 p.

Disclaimer Statements

Although this program has been used by the USGS, NO WARRANTY, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the United States Government as to the accuracy and functioning of the program and related program material nor shall the fact of distribution constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by the USGS in connection therewith.

United States Geological Survey created - HISTORY

The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain (1:8,000,000 scale) is a product of the US Geological Survey in the I-map series (I-2781). This map was prepared in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada and the Mexican Consejo Recursos de Minerales.

This cartographic Tapestry is woven from a geologic map and a shaded relief image. This digital combination reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time. The large map shows the varying age of bedrock underlying North America, while four smaller maps show the distribution of four principal types of rock: sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic and metamorphic.

This map expands the original concept of the 2000 Tapestry of Time and Terrain, by José F. Vigil, Richard J. Pike and David G. Howell, which covered the conterminous United States. The U.S. Tapestry poster and website have been popular in classrooms, homes, and even the Google office building, and we anticipate the North America Tapestry will have a similarly wide appeal, and to a larger audience.

These files work best when you download them to your computer's hard disk and viewing them with the regular stand-alone version of Acrobat. To get your computer to download, right-click (PC) or Control click (Mac) on the links below.

Download this map as a PDF file (i2781_c.pdf 131 MB)

Download a smaller, jpeg version of the Tapestry (NorthAmericaTapestry.jpg 1.2 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact David Howell ([email protected]) or the Western Earth Surface Processes Team.

This map is also available from:

USGS Information Services, Box 25286,
Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225
telephone: 303-202-4210 e-mail: [email protected]

URL of this page:

Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: May 28, 2003
Last modified: September 24, 2009 (mfd)
| Privacy Statement | Disclaimer |


Since 2012, the USGS science focus is directed at topical "Mission Areas" [7] that have continued to evolve iteratively over time. Further organizational structure includes headquarters functions, geographic regions, science and support programs, science centers, labs, and other facilities.

Regions Edit

The USGS regional organization [8] aligns with the U.S. Department of the Interior Unified Interior Regions: [9]

  • Region 1: North Atlantic-Appalachian
  • Region 2: South Atlantic-Gulf
  • Region 3: Great Lakes
  • Region 4: Mississippi Basin
  • Region 5: Missouri Basin
  • Region 6: Arkansas-Rio Grande-Texas-Gulf
  • Region 7: Upper Colorado Basin
  • Region 8: Lower Colorado Basin
  • Region 9: Columbia-Pacific Northwest
  • Region 10: California-Great Basin
  • Region 11: Alaska
  • Region 12: Pacific Islands

Science programs, facilities, and other organizations Edit

USGS operates and organizes within a number of specific science programs, facilities, and other organizational units:

Earthquake Hazards Program Edit

Earthquake Hazards Program [10] monitors earthquake activity worldwide. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colorado on the campus of the Colorado School of Mines detects the location and magnitude of global earthquakes. The USGS also runs or supports several regional monitoring networks in the United States under the umbrella of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). [11] The USGS informs authorities, emergency responders, the media, and the public, both domestic and worldwide, about significant earthquakes. It also maintains long-term archives of earthquake data for scientific and engineering research. It also conducts and supports research on long-term seismic hazards. USGS has released the UCERF California earthquake forecast.

Volcano Early Warning Systems Edit

As of 2005, the agency is working to create a National Volcano Early Warning System by improving the instrumentation monitoring the 169 volcanoes in U.S. territory and by establishing methods for measuring the relative threats posed at each site.

Center for Coastal Geology Edit

The USGS Center for Coastal Geology is located on the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus with the goal to conduct research in geology, mapping, hydrology, biology, and related sciences evaluate hazards associated with floods, droughts, hurricanes, subsidence, human activity, and climate change map onshore and offshore geologic framework assess mineral resources and develop techniques for their discovery assess water resources and develop an understanding of the impact of human activities and natural phenomena on hydrologic systems assess links between biodiversity, habitat condition, ecosystem processes and health and develop new technologies for collection and interpretation of earth science data. [12]

National Geomagnetism Program Edit

The USGS National Geomagnetism Program monitors the magnetic field at magnetic observatories and distributes magnetometer data in real time.

North American Environmental Atlas Edit

The USGS collaborates with Canadian and Mexican government scientists, along with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, to produce the North American Environmental Atlas, which is used to depict and track environmental issues for a continental perspective.

Streamgaging Edit

The USGS operates the streamgaging network for the United States, with over 7400 streamgages. Real-time streamflow data [13] are available online.

Water Resources Research Institute Edit

As part of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984, the State Water Resources Research Act Program created a Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) in each state, along with Washington DC, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. [14] Together, these institutes make up the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR). The institutes focus on water-related issues through research, training and collaboration. [15]

Climate Adaptation Science Centers Edit

The National and regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) [16] is a partnership-driven program that teams scientific researchers with natural and cultural resource managers to help fish, wildlife, waters, and lands across the country adapt to climate change. The National CASC (NCASC), based at USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia, serves as the national office for the CASC network, while eight regional CASCs made up of federal-university consortiums located across the U.S., U.S. Pacific Islands, and U.S. Caribbean deliver science that addresses resource management priorities of the states within their footprints.

Astrogeology Edit

Since 1962, the Astrogeology Research Program has been involved in global, lunar, and planetary exploration and mapping.

Geochronology Edit

In collaboration with Stanford University, the USGS also operates the USGS-Stanford Ion Microprobe Laboratory, [17] a world-class [ citation needed ] [18] analytical facility for U-(Th)-Pb geochronology and trace element analyses of minerals and other earth materials.

National Streamflow Information Program Edit

USGS operates a number of water related programs, notably the National Streamflow Information Program [19] and National Water-Quality Assessment Program. [20] USGS Water data is publicly available from their National Water Information System [21] database.

National Wildlife Health Center Edit

The USGS also operates the National Wildlife Health Center, whose mission is "to serve the nation and its natural resources by providing sound science and technical support, and to disseminate information to promote science-based decisions affecting wildlife and ecosystem health. The NWHC provides information, technical assistance, research, education, and leadership on national and international wildlife health issues." [22] It is the agency primarily responsible for surveillance of H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks in the United States. The USGS also runs 17 biological research centers in the United States, including the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

ShakeMaps Edit

The USGS is investigating collaboration with the social networking site Twitter to allow for more rapid construction of ShakeMaps. [23] [24]

The following are older descriptions of select activities that will be updated or moved to new locations as this page continues to be edited.

Topographic mapping Edit

The USGS produces several national series of topographic maps which vary in scale and extent, with some wide gaps in coverage, notably the complete absence of 1:50,000 scale topographic maps or their equivalent. The largest (both in terms of scale and quantity) and best-known topographic series is the 7.5-minute, 1:24,000 scale, quadrangle, a non-metric scale virtually unique to the United States. Each of these maps covers an area bounded by two lines of latitude and two lines of longitude spaced 7.5 minutes apart. Nearly 57,000 individual maps in this series cover the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii, U.S. territories, and areas of Alaska near Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Prudhoe Bay. The area covered by each map varies with the latitude of its represented location due to convergence of the meridians. At lower latitudes, near 30° north, a 7.5-minute quadrangle contains an area of about 64 square miles (166 km 2 ). At 49° north latitude, 49 square miles (127 km 2 ) are contained within a quadrangle of that size. As a unique non-metric map scale, the 1:24,000 scale naturally requires a separate and specialized romer scale for plotting map positions. [25] [26] In recent years, budget constraints have forced the USGS to rely on donations of time by civilian volunteers in an attempt to update its 7.5-minute topographic map series, and USGS stated outright in 2000 that the program was to be phased out in favor of The National Map [27] (not to be confused with the National Atlas of the United States produced by the Department of the Interior, one of whose bureaus is USGS).

An older series of maps, the 15-minute series, was once used to map the contiguous 48 states at a scale of 1:62,500 for maps covering the continental United States, but was discontinued during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Each map was bounded by two parallels and two meridians spaced 15 minutes apart—the same area covered by four maps in the 7.5-minute series. The 15-minute series, at a scale of 1:63,360 (one inch representing one mile), remains the primary topographic quadrangle for the state of Alaska (and only for that particular state). Nearly 3,000 maps cover 97% of the state. [25] The United States remains virtually the only developed country in the world without a standardized civilian topographic map series in the standard 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 metric scales, making coordination difficult in border regions (the U.S. military does issue 1:50,000 scale topo maps of the continental United States, though only for use by members of its defense forces).

The next-smallest topographic series, in terms of scale, is the 1:100,000 series. These maps are bounded by two lines of longitude and two lines of latitude. However, in this series, the lines of latitude are spaced 30 minutes apart and the lines of longitude are spaced 60 minutes, which is the source of another name for these maps the 30 x 60-minute quadrangle series. Each of these quadrangles covers the area contained within 32 maps in the 7.5-minute series. The 1:100,000 scale series is unusual in that it employs the Metric system primarily. One centimeter on the map represents one kilometer of distance on the ground. Contour intervals, spot elevations, and horizontal distances are also specified in meters.

The final regular quadrangle series produced by the USGS is the 1:250,000 scale topographic series. Each of these quadrangles in the conterminous United States measures 1 degree of latitude by 2 degrees of longitude. This series was produced by the U.S. Army Map Service in the 1950s, prior to the maps in the larger-scale series, and consists of 489 sheets, each covering an area ranging from 8,218 square miles (21,285 km 2 ) at 30° north to 6,222 square miles (16,115 km 2 ) at 49° north. [25] Hawaii is mapped at this scale in quadrangles measuring 1° by 1°.

USGS topographic quadrangle maps are marked with grid lines and tics around the map collar which make it possible to identify locations on the map by several methods, including the graticule measurements of longitude and latitude, the township and section method within the Public Land Survey System, and cartesian coordinates in both the State Plane Coordinate System and the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system.

Other specialty maps have been produced by the USGS at a variety of scales. These include county maps, maps of special interest areas, such as the national parks, and areas of scientific interest.

A number of Internet sites have made these maps available on the web for affordable commercial and professional use. Because works of the U.S. government are in the public domain, it is also possible to find many of these maps for free at various locations on the Internet. Georeferenced map images are available from the USGS as digital raster graphics (DRGs) in addition to digital data sets based on USGS maps, notably digital line graphs (DLGs) and digital elevation models (DEMs).

In 2015, the USGS unveiled the topoView website, a new way to view their entire digitized collection of over 178,000 maps from 1884 to 2006. The site is an interactive map of the United States that allows users to search or move around the map to find the USGS collection of maps for a specific area. Users may then view the maps in great detail and download them if desired. [28]

The National Map and U.S. Topo Edit

In 2008 the USGS abandoned traditional methods of surveying, revising, and updating topographic maps based on aerial photography and field checks. [29] Today's U.S. Topo quadrangle (1:24,000) maps are mass-produced, using automated and semiautomated processes, with cartographic content supplied from the National GIS Database. [29] In the two years from June 2009 to May 2011, the USGS produced nearly 40,000 maps, more than 80 maps per work day. [29] Only about two hours of interactive work are spent on each map, mostly on text placement and final inspection there are essentially no field checks or field inspections to confirm map details. [29]

While much less expensive to compile and produce, the revised digital U.S. topo maps have been criticized for a lack of accuracy and detail in comparison to older generation maps based on aerial photo surveys and field checks. [29] As the digital databases were not designed for producing general-purpose maps, data integration can be a problem when retrieved from sources with different resolutions and collection dates. [29] Man-made features once recorded by direct field observation are not in any public domain national database and are frequently omitted from the newest generation digital topo maps, including windmills, mines and mineshafts, water tanks, fence lines, survey marks, parks, recreational trails, buildings, boundaries, pipelines, telephone lines, power transmission lines, and even railroads. [29] Additionally, the digital map's use of existing software may not properly integrate different feature classes or prioritize and organize text in areas of crowded features, obscuring important geographic details. [29] As a result, some have noted that the U.S. Topo maps currently fall short of traditional topographic map presentation standards achieved in maps drawn from 1945 to 1992. [29]

USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility Edit

The Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility (HIF) has four sections within its organizational structure [30] the Field Services Section which includes the warehouse, repair shop, and Engineering Unit the Testing Section which includes the Hydraulic Laboratory, testing chambers, and Water Quality Laboratory the Information Technology Section which includes computer support and the Drafting Unit and the Administrative Section.

The HIF was given national responsibility for the design, testing, evaluation, repair, calibration, warehousing, and distribution of hydrologic instrumentation. Distribution is accomplished by direct sales and through a rental program. The HIF supports data collection activities through centralized warehouse and laboratory facilities. The HIF warehouse provides hydrologic instruments, equipment, and supplies for USGS as well as Other Federal Agencies (OFA) and USGS Cooperators. The HIF also tests, evaluates, repairs, calibrates, and develops hydrologic equipment and instruments. The HIF Hydraulic Laboratory facilities include a towing tank, jet tank, pipe flow facility, and tilting flume. In addition, the HIF provides training and technical support for the equipment it stocks.

The Engineering Group seeks out new technology and designs for instrumentation that can work more efficiently, be more accurate, and or be produced at a lower cost than existing instrumentation. HIF works directly with vendors to help them produce products that will meet the mission needs of the USGS. For instrument needs not currently met by a vendor, the Engineering Group designs, tests, and issues contracts to have HIF-designed equipment made. Sometimes HIF will patent a new design in the hope that instrument vendors will buy the rights and mass-produce the instrument at a lower cost to everyone.

USGS researchers publish the results of their science in a variety of ways, including peer-reviewed scientific journals as well as in one of a variety of USGS Report Series [31] that include preliminary results, maps, data, and final results. A complete catalog of all USGS publications is available from the USGS Publications Warehouse.

Prompted by a report from the National Academy of Sciences, the USGS was created, by a last-minute amendment, to an act of Congress on March 3, 1879. It was charged with the "classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain". This task was driven by the need to inventory the vast lands added to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Mexican–American War in 1848.

The legislation also provided that the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys be discontinued as of June 30, 1879. [32]

Clarence King, the first director of USGS, assembled the new organization from disparate regional survey agencies. After a short tenure, King was succeeded in the director's chair by John Wesley Powell.


The current programs of the USGS have been created for a variety of purposes. These aim to determine changes in land use and climatic patterns, to conduct research on earth and its core systems, to study ecosystems, to determine energy needs and mineral and environmental health issues, and to put environmental hazards and water supply issues into better context. The USGS also observes earthquake trends on a worldwide scale. Another one of its monitoring activities is concerned with creating early warning systems for volcanic activities in the United States. It monitors magnetic fields at magnetic observatories as well. The agency works with Mexican and Canadian scientists to track environmental concerns all throughout North and Central America. Additional programs of the USGS involve partnerships. These include the combined USGS and Stanford University Analyses program of trace elements in minerals, the climate and land use impact partnership with the National Climate Change and the Wildlife Science Center, and the USGS's use of Twitter for improving Shakemaps, an earthquake hazards program.

U.S. Geological Survey Marks 139 Years of Scientific Advancement

Created by Congress on March 3, 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey was originally dedicated to exploring the geology and mineral potential of western lands, but over its 139-year-history, it has evolved to dramatically expand our knowledge of natural science.

Check out some great facts about USGS to commemorate 139 years of scientific inquiry and advancement for the benefit of the American people.

USGS revolutionized surveying. Before USGS was formed, most mapping in the United States was done by military expeditions and several independent government surveys. Upon its creation, USGS established a more comprehensive approach to surveying and worked to classify public lands -- examining their geological structure, mineral resources and products. This scientific appraisal of land potential and mineral resources changed the way government approached surveying and encouraged conservation, economic expansion and more efficient development across the nation.

A USGS survey crew studying the alpine ecosystem of Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo by Greg Pederson, USGS.

USGS is dedicated to expanding our scientific knowledge of the Earth. This means the Survey is the go-to expert for natural science information and data. USGS serves the country by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth. USGS’s scientific work helps minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters, and aids in the measuring and research of water, biological, energy and mineral resources. USGS focuses its work around its key mission areas including ecosystems, energy and minerals, environmental health, natural hazards and water.

The San Andreas fault runs through Carrizo Plain National Monument in California. The San Andreas is the "master" fault of an intricate fault network that cuts through rocks of the California coastal region and is the epicenter of some of the state’s most famous earthquakes. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

USGS was essential during the World Wars. When World War I started in 1914, USGS immediately increased its geologic mapping to aid the discovery of new oil fields and needed war materials. When Europe was in urgent need of American agricultural and industrial products -- along with steel, copper and explosives -- the U.S. was able to provide them, thanks in part to USGS. Working with allies, the search for minerals expanded to Central and South America, and with USGS’s expertise in surveying, adequate supplies of essential materials were found to support the war effort. USGS also started mapping foreign areas for the military. In both World War I and World War II, USGS focused its energies toward the war effort and emerged as a world leader in mineral assessments, both domestic and foreign, and its data was used to solve a variety of industrial and transportation problems.

Geologist searching for nitrates in 1917. By the time America entered the war, the USGS had dedicated almost all of its efforts to war purposes. Photo by USGS.

The Space Race’s unsung hero is USGS. After Soviet scientists launched Sputnik -- the world’s first artificial satellite -- into space in 1957, USGS entered the uncharted territory of space. In the pursuit of studying the geology of the planets, USGS scientists cooperated with NASA to expand our scientific knowledge beyond Earth. In 1959, the Survey compiled a photogeologic map of the Moon and began to study its impact craters and unique minerals. Two years after President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 proposal to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth,” USGS and NASA began to train the Apollo astronauts in geology and how to investigate and evaluate methods and equipment for geological and geophysical exploration of the Moon.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission on the lunar surface. NASA and USGS worked closely to accomplish this scientific breakthrough. Photo by NASA.

USGS didn’t invent topographic maps, but it did perfect them. The USGS National Geospatial Program provides scanned historical topographic maps from 1884-2006 and current maps that are created using digital geographic information systems. Great for scientists, students, companies and campers, this easy-to-use map called US Topo provides a unique opportunity to study our nation’s topography. Today, USGS is the nation's largest civilian mapping agency, creating and distributing maps of more than 3 billion acres of lands and waters. Check out the growing database to explore the diversity of nationally protected lands.

This map shows protected areas in the United States. USGS has been creating maps like this since the 1880s. Photo by USGS.

USGS monitors one of our nation’s most important resources -- water. There’s a good chance that the water you’re drinking has been monitored, tested or studied by USGS. USGS works to collect important data, like water quality and stream trends, to help predict and prevent local losses of life and property. USGS’s real-time streamflow map allows individuals to monitor the streamflow conditions of rivers across the country.

USGS hydrotech, Alvin Sablan, can be seen here using a streamgage in the Owyhee River near Rome, Oregon. Photo by John Wirt, USGS.

Worried about volcanoes? USGS is on the case. With 169 potentially active volcanoes in the U.S., the work of the Volcano Hazards Program is essentially to keep Americans safe. Through this program, USGS scientists research how volcanoes work so they can issue timely warnings and provide the public with the best scientific information possible. USGS works to conduct natural hazards research to provide policymakers and the public with the information they need to save lives and billions of dollars with preparedness and response strategies. USGS operates five active volcano observatories: Alaska, Cascades, California, Yellowstone, and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

A USGS scientist in Hawaii collects lava samples for chemical analysis, which can give insight into changes in the magmatic system. Photo by USGS.

USGS provides cutting-edge energy research. USGS studies the locations and quantities of energy resources, as well as evaluates the environmental and economic impacts of exploring and extracting oil, gas, coal and critical minerals. From identifying the next source of geothermal energy to estimating the amount of recoverable natural gas, the research done by USGS provides the framework for future U.S. energy growth and coming challenges to production.

The USGS has created an online, interactive map of wind turbines. Find out more information about wind farms. Photo of a wind farm in Idaho by Bureau of Land Management.

USGS is helping first responders keep tabs on wildfires. During the 2017 fire season, over 10 million acres of wildland were scorched by wildfires. USGS’s GeoMAC is a one-stop shop for tracking fires, aiding first responders, emergency managers and even communities near an active fire. It was the first wildfire tracking system of its kind, and now millions of people use the application each year. Check out GeoMAC to track the location and intensity of current wildfires, and learn about previous fires back to 2002.

Wildfires are common in Southern California. USGS studies ecological factors, like invasive grasses, that increase the risk of wildfire damage to homes, lives, roads and other infrastructure. Photo by USGS.

Technical Aspects of Wetlands History of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States

Much of our knowledge of early wetlands comes from maps and other documents that survived over time. The origins of settlers influenced both where people settled and how they mapped and used natural resources. Few records exist because the original English, French, and Spanish settlements were established before the land was surveyed. Settlements in the North tended to be clustered, whereas communities in the South were more widely scattered because of the predominance of agriculture. Many different land surveying systems resulted in an incomplete patchwork of ownership that ultimately caused many legal problems due to boundary errors and overlapping claims (Garrett, 1988). It was not until 1785 that the Land Ordinance Act established the United States Public Land Survey, which required surveying and partitioning of land prior to settlement. Although not established to provide information on natural resources, surveys do provide some information about the distribution and location of wetlands.

During the 1700's, wetlands were regarded as swampy lands that bred diseases, restricted overland travel, impeded the production of food and fiber, and generally were not useful for frontier survival. Settlers, commercial interests, and governments agreed that wetlands presented obstacles to development, and that wetlands should be eliminated and the land reclaimed for other purposes. Most pioneers viewed natural resources from wetlands as things to be used without limit (Tebeau, 1980). The most productive tracts of land in fertile river valleys in parts of Virginia had been claimed and occupied before 1700. The resulting shortage of choice land stimulated colonists to move south to the rich bottom lands along the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound of North Carolina on the flat Atlantic coastal plain. Initially, settlements consisted primarily of shelters and subsistence farms on small tracts of land. To extend the productive value of available land, wetlands on these small tracts were drained by small hand-dug ditches. During the mid- to late 1700's, as the population grew, land clearing and farming for profit began to affect larger tracts of land many coastal plain wetlands were converted to farmland (fig. 3). Once drained, these areas provided productive agricultural lands for growing cash crops.

Interest in the preservation of wetlands has increased as the value of wetland has become more fully undertood.

Technical advances facilitated wetland conversion.

(Click on image for a larger version, 83K GIF) Figure 3. Extent of wetlands in Washington County, N.C., circa 1780 (left) and 1990 (right). Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Status and Trends, unpub. data, 1994.)

Widespread wetland drainage was most prevalent in the southern colonies. In 1754, South Carolina authorized the drainage of Cacaw Swamp for agricultural use (Beauchamp, 1987). Similarly, areas of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina were surveyed in 1763 so that land could be reclaimed for water transportation routes. Farming on large plantations was common practice in the South and necessitated some drainage or manipulation of wetlands.

By the 1780's, immigrants had settled along the fertile river valleys of the Northeast and as far south as present-day Georgia. Wetlands in these river valleys suffered losses with this settlement (fig. 4). Small towns and farms were established in the valleys along the rivers of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Settlement extended to the valleys beyond the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and followed the major rivers inland through the Carolinas by 1800.

Sorry, this photo is not yet available
Oil-powered dredge digging a 30-foot-wide ditch to drain welands near Carroll, Iowa. Photograph courtesy of National Archives, 8-D-2214-2570.)

(Click on image for a larger version, 33K GIF)

Figure 4. States with notable wetland loss, early 1600's to 1800.

1800 to 1860--Westward Expansion

The period between 1800 and 1860 was a time of growth in the United States. During these decades, numerous land acquisitions--the Louisiana Purchase (1803) Florida and eastern Louisiana ceded by Spain (1819) annexation of Texas (1845) the Oregon Compromise (1846) and lands ceded from Mexico (1848)--greatly expanded the land area of the United States (Garrett, 1988) (fig. 5). With this land expansion, the population grew from 7.2 million in 1810 to 12.8 million in 1830 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1832). Land speculation increased with this rapid growth and marked a period when land and resources seemed to be available for the taking. It was a time of rapid inland movement of settlers westward into the wetland-rich areas of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys (fig. 2). Large-scale conversion of wetlands to farmlands started to have a real effect on the distribution and abundance of wetlands in the United States. Areas where notable wetland loss occurred between 1800 and 1860 are shown in figure 6.

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Figure 5. Major United States land acquisitions between 1800 and 1860. Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, 1970.)

(Click on image for a larger version, 33K GIF) Figure 6. States with notable wetland loss, 1800 to 1860.

Technical advances throughout the 1800's greatly facilitated wetland conversions. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 provided settlers with an alternative mode and route of travel from New York to the Great Lakes States, increasing migration of farmers to the Midwest. The canal also provided low-cost transportation of timber and agricultural products from the Nation's interior to eastern markets and seaports (McNall, 1952). Another innovation, the steam-powered dredge, allowed the channelizing or clearing of small waterways at the expense of adjacent wetlands. Between 1810 and 1840, new agricultural implements--plows, rakes, and cultivators--enabled settlers to break ground previously not considered for farming (McManis, 1964). Mechanical reapers introduced in the 1830's stimulated competition in, and furthered refinements of, farm equipment marketed in the Midwest (Ross, 1956). These innovations ultimately took a toll on wetlands as more land was drained, cleared, and plowed for farming.

Wetland drainage continued. In the Midwest, the drainage of the Lake Erie marshes of Michigan and Ohio probably started about 1836. Cotton and tobacco farming continued to flourish in the Southern States and precipitated the additional drainage of thousands of acres of wetlands for conversion to cropland.

Wetlands also were being modified in other ways. The Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin was dammed and flooded in 1846 for a transportation route and to provide commercial fishing. Toward the middle of the century, lumbering was an important industry in the Midwest, supplying wood for construction and fuel for stoves and fireplaces. Much of the Nation's timber came from the swamp forests of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which typically contained a mix of birch, ash, elm, oak, cottonwood, poplar, maple, basswood, and hickory.

In 1849, Congress passed the first of the Swamp Land Acts, which granted all swamp and overflow lands in Louisiana to the State for reclamation. In 1850, the Act was made applicable to 12 other States, and in 1860, it was extended to include lands in two additional States (Shaw and Fredine, 1956) (table 1). Although most States did not begin immediate large-scale reclamation projects, this legislation clearly set the tone that the Federal Government promoted wetland drainage and reclamation for settlement and development. This tone pervaded policy and land-use trends for the next century.

Table 1. Acreage granted to the States under the authority of the Swamp Land Acts of 1849, 1850, and 1860

1860 to 1900--Agriculture Moves West

The American Civil War (1861-65) affected wetlands because traversing swamps and marshes with heavy equipment presented major logistical problems for both armies. The design, engineering, and construction of transportation and communication networks were stimulated. Attention became focused on the development of routes around, through, or over water bodies and wetlands, and on production of accurate maps (fig. 7). These maps provided an early glimpse of some of the Nation's wetlands.

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Figure 7. Confederate States of America map of Southeastern United States with wetlands depicted for strategic rather than natural resources value. (Source: National Archives, Record Group 94, Civil War Atlas, Plate CXLIV.) States with notable wetland loss, 1800 to 1860.
After the war, the Nation's attention focused on westward expansion and settlement. Railroads were important in the initial development of transportation routes. The railroads not only opened new lands, including wetlands, to development, but the railroad industry also was a direct consumer of wetland forest products. In the 1860's, more than 30,000 miles of railroad track existed in the United States (Stover, 1961). The railroads of Ohio consumed 1 million cords of wood annually just for fuel (Gordon, 1969). The additional quantity of wood used for ties is not known. From 1859 to 1885, intense timber cutting and land clearing eliminated many of Ohio's wetlands, including the Black Swamp (fig. 8).

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Figure 8. Location, estimated original acreage, and drainage date of Ohio's historic wetlands.

The Black Swamp was in the northwestern corner of Ohio and was a barrier to travel and settlement. This forested wetland was estimated to have been 120 miles long and 40 miles wide, covering an area nearly equal in size to Connecticut (Gordon, 1969 Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 1988). The swamp, which was an elm-ash forested wetland typical of the region, contained a variety of commercially valuable trees (Eyre, 1980). Nothing was left of the Black Swamp by the end of the nineteenth century.

During the mid- to late 1880's, agriculture expanded rapidly westward along the major river systems. Several regions of abundant wetlands lay directly in the path of this expansion (Wooten and Jones, 1955), including:

    The prairie pothole wetlands of western Minnesota, northern Iowa, and North and South Dakota

As new kinds of machinery increased the ability to till more land, the conversion of wetlands to farmlands increased rapidly. Huge wheat farms, or "Bonanza Farms," were operating in the Dakota Territory (present-day North and South Dakota) by 1875. New mechanical seeders, harrowers, binders, and threshers, designed specifically for wheat production, were used to cultivate large tracts of land for these farms (Knue, 1988). Many wetlands were lost as a result of these operations.

Improvements in drainage technology greatly affected wetland losses in the East and the Midwest. As the use of steam power expanded, replacing hand labor for digging ditches and manufacturing drainage tiles, the production and installation of drainage tiles increased rapidly. By 1880, 1,140 factories located mainly in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio manufactured drainage tiles that were used to drain wetlands for farming (Pavelis, 1987). By 1882, more than 30,000 miles of tile drains were operating in Indiana alone. By 1884, Ohio had 20,000 miles of public ditches designed to drain 11 million acres of land (Wooten and Jones, 1955).

Wetland conversion in the Central Valley of California began in the mid-1800's, when farmers began diking and draining the flood-plain areas of the valley for cultivation (fig. 9). Other States had notable losses of wetlands between 1860 and 1900 (fig. 10).

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Figure 9. Wetlands of the Central Valley of California, circa 1820 (left) and 1990 (right). (Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Status and Trends, unpub. data, 1994.)

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Figure 10. States with notable wetland loss, 1860 to 1900.

1900 to 1950--Changing Technology

The first half of the twentieth century was a time of ambitious engineering and drainage operations. Two World Wars, a rapidly growing population, and industrial growth fueled the demand for land as industry and agriculture propelled the United States to the status of a world leader. Technology was increasingly important in manipulation of the Nation's water resources. Two of the most notable projects that affected wetlands were California's Central Valley Project and the lock and dam system on the Mississippi River.

Although draining had begun one-half century earlier, wetland modification in the Central Valley accelerated early in the 20th century. By the 1920's, about 70 percent of the original wetland acreage had been modified by levees, drainage, and water-diversion projects (Frayer and others, 1989). In the 1930's, large-scale flood-control projects, diversion dams, and water-control structures were being built on the tributary rivers entering the valley.

Wetland modification also continued farther east. Before the installation of the lock and dam system in 1924, the bottom lands of the Mississippi River corridor were primarily wooded islands separated by deep sloughs (Green, 1984). Hundreds of small lakes and ponds were scattered throughout extensive wooded areas. The river channel was subject to shifting sands and shallows, and changed constantly. Lake and dam structures were built to create a permanent navigable waterway. The water depth increased behind each dam to create a pool that extended upstream to the next dam. The first pool was filled in 1935 and the system was completed when the last pool was filled in 1959. The resulting changes to the river system eliminated large water-level fluctuations and helped stabilize water depth and flooding. Bottom lands no longer dried out in summer, and former hay meadows and wooded areas were converted to marshlands surrounding the pools. One type of wetland was exchanged for another. Although some pools of the Upper Mississippi River have problems with silt deposition and restricted water circulation, these "created"wetland areas provide habitat for fur-bearing animals, waterfowl, and fish.

In other parts of the country, this era was marked by urban and agricultural expansion projects that drained both large and small wetlands. Some of the most ambitious projects were attempts to drain and cultivate Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin in 1904 commercial timber harvesting in southern Georgia, which began in 1908 as a precursor to attempts to drain the Okefenokee Swamp (Trowell, 1988) and in 1914, the draining of North Carolina's largest natural lake, Lake Mattamuskeet, to create farmland (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, undated). Early in the century, land developers dug drainage ditches in an attempt to drain a huge area for development in the vast peatlands north of Red Lake, Minn. (Glaser, 1987). On July 29, 1917, the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune ran a full page advertisement to attract homesteaders to the Red Lake area--"perhaps the last of the unsettled, uncut timberland in the middle of the country" (Wright, 1984). By 1930, nearly all of the prairie wetlands in Iowa, the southern counties of Minnesota, and the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota were drained (Schrader, 1955).

Attempts were underway to drain and farm large parts of The Everglades (a huge expanse of wetlands in southern Florida). By the 1930's, more than 400 miles of drainage canals were already in place (Lord, 1993). (See article "Wetland Resources of Florida"in the State Summaries section of this volume.) With the passage of the Sugar Act of 1934, additional wetlands in southern Florida were drained and put into sugarcane production. Sugarcane yields more than doubled from 410,000 to 873,000 tons between 1931 and 1941 (Clarke, 1977), largely at the expense of wetland acreage. Severe flooding in southern Florida in the 1920's and again in the 1940's prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the Central and Southern Florida Project for flood control. This massive undertaking, which required levees, water-storage areas, channel improvements, and large pumps, caused additional large modification to The Everglades' environment (Light and Dineen, 1994).

Mechanized farm tractors had replaced horses and mules for farm labor during this half century. The tractors could be used more effectively than animals for drainage operations, and the old pasture land then became available for improvement and production of additional crops. In the Midwest and the North-central States, the use of tractors probably contributed to the loss of millions of acres of small wetlands and prairie potholes.

In the 1930's, the U.S. Government, in essence, provided free engineering services to farmers to drain wetlands and by the 1940's, the Government shared the cost of drainage projects (Burwell and Sugden, 1964). Organized drainage districts throughout the country coordinated efforts to remove surface water from wetlands (Wooten and Jones, 1955). Figure 11 shows areas of notable wetland losses between 1900 and 1950.

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Figure 11. States with notable wetland loss, 1900 to 1950.

In 1934, in stark contrast to these drainage activities, Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. This Act was one of the first pieces of legislation to initiate the process of acquiring and restoring America's wetlands.

The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act was one of the first pieces of legislation to initiate the process of acquiring and restoring America's wetlands.

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Drainage tile operation, circa 1940's. Tiles provide a conduit for moving water from a wetland. (Photograph courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

1950 to Present--Changing Priorities and Values

By the 1960's, most political, financial, and institutional incentives to drain or destroy wetlands were in place. The Federal Government encouraged land drainage and wetland destruction through a variety of legislative and policy instruments. For example, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (1954) directly and indirectly increased the drainage of wetlands near flood-control projects (Erickson and others, 1979). The Federal Government directly subsidized or facilitated wetland losses through its many public-works projects, technical practices, and cost-shared drainage programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Erickson, 1979). Tile and open-ditch drainage were considered conservation practices under the Agriculture Conservation Program--whose policies caused wetland losses averaging 550,000 acres each year from the mid-1950's to the mid-1970's (Office of Technology Assessment, 1984). Agriculture was responsible for more than 80 percent of these losses (Frayer and others, 1983). Figure 12 shows States with notable wetland losses between 1950 and 1990.

Since the 1970's, there has been increasing awareness that wetlands are valuable areas that provide important environmental functions. Public awareness of, and education about, wetlands has increased dramatically since the early 1950's. Federal policies, such as the "Swampbuster,"have eliminated incentives and other mechanisms that have made the destruction of wetlands technically and economically feasible. New laws, such as the Emergency Wetland Resources Act of 1986, also curtail wetland losses. (See article "Wetland Protection Legislation"in this volume for information on legislation affecting wetlands.) Some of the more ambitious drainage projects of earlier years have been abandoned. Now, places like Lake Mattamuskeet, Horicon Marsh, and the Okefenokee Swamp, which once were targeted for drainage, have become National Wildlife Refuges that provide wetland habitat for a variety of plants and animals.

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Figure 12. States with notable wetland loss, 1950 to 1990.

The effects of the Federal policy reversal on the rate of wetland loss are not clear. Estimates indicate that wetland losses in the conterminous United States from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's were about 290,000 acres per year (Dahl and Johnson, 1991). This is about one-half of the losses that occurred each year in the 1950's and '60's. The preceding numbers do not include degraded or modified wetlands. Although the estimate above reflects a declining rate of loss, land development continues to destroy wetlands.

From about 1987 to the present, Federal efforts to restore wetlands have increased. Although there is no precise number for all of the wetland acres restored, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1991) estimated that between 1987 and 1990 about 90,000 acres were added to the Nation's wetland inventory.

Attempts are underway now to restore some of The Everglades. The remaining Everglades comprise about 2,300 square miles, three-fifths of which is impounded in managed water-conservation areas (Lord, 1993). This wetland system currently is experiencing mercury contamination and other water-quality problems, water-supply and diversion controversies, declining wildlife populations, increasing pressure from tourism, urban and agricultural expansion, and influx of nuisance plants.

The magnitude of environmental alterations in Florida, with numerous conflicting interests, exemplifies the dilemma of managing water resources and wetlands. What initially seemed to be a matter of water removal turned into an extremely complex and costly issue involving water-use objectives at all levels of government (Tebeau, 1980).

Today there are more than 100 dams within the California Central Valley drainage basins and thousands of miles of water-delivery canals. Water is diverted for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and municipal and industrial water supplies. Only 14 percent of the original wetland acreage remains. The Tulare Lake Basin has been virtually drained, leaving only remnant wetland areas and a dry lakebed, and Buena Vista and Kern Lakes rarely contain water (fig. 9).

Currently (1994), manipulation of water levels in wetlands rather than the complete removal of water as in the past, is a trend that affects wetlands. Partial drainage or lowering of the water levels to allow for certain uses is becoming prevalent in some parts of the country. Effects of this type of management are uncertain.

Example of Changing Attitudes--horicon marsh

The history of the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin is an example of how people's attitudes toward wetlands have changed through time (fig. 13). Horicon Marsh was dammed, flooded, and renamed Lake Horicon in 1846. At that time, it was the largest manmade lake in the world (about 4 miles wide by 14 miles long) (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1990). Lake Horicon was used for commercial transportation and for commercial fishing. In 1869, the dam was removed and the land returned to marsh. In 1883, two sportsmen's clubs, which leased the marsh area, reported that 500,000 ducks hatched annually in the marsh. They also reported that 30,000 muskrats and mink were trapped in the southern half of the marsh. Huge flocks of geese also were reported (Freeman, 1948). In 1904, attempts were made to drain the marsh and sell the reclaimed land for truck farms. Lawsuits resulting from inadequate drainage halted the reclamation effort.

In 1921, local conservationists began efforts to protect Horicon Marsh as a game refuge, and the State of Wisconsin created the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge in July 1927. Later, to avoid legal confrontations with the local farmers, the State bought property and (or) water rights to the southern half of the refuge and the Federal Government purchased rights to the northern half. In 1990, Horicon Marsh was added to the sites recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat.

Estimates indicate that today slightly more than 100 million acres of wetlands remain in the conterminous United States. Although the rate of wetland conversion has slowed in recent years, wetland losses continue to outdistance wetland gains.

Figure 13. Horicon Marsh, Wis., evolved from original marsh (1846), to lake (1853), to swamp (1881), to wildlife refuge (1984). (Source: Sequence is left to right, top to bottom, Historical Society of Wisconsin negative number WHi (X3) 50111, WHi (X3) 50212, WHi (X3) 50113 U.S. Geological Survey, 1984.)

References Cited

Beauchamp, K.H., 1987, A history of drainage and drainage methods, in Pavelis, G.A., ed., Farm drainage in the United States--History, status, and prospects: Washington, D.C., Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication no. 1455, p. 13-29.

Bednarik, K.E., 1984, Saga of the Lake Erie marshes, in Hawkins, A.S., Hanson, R.C., Nelson, H.K., and Reeves, H.M., eds., Flyways--Pioneering waterfowl management in North America: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, p. 423-430.

Burwell, R.W., and Sugden, L.G., 1964, Potholes--Going, going. in Linduska, J.P., ed., Waterfowl tomorrow: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, p. 369-380.

Clarke, M.J.,1977, An economic and environmental assessment of the Florida Everglades sugarcane industry: Baltimore, Md., Johns Hopkins University, 140 p.

Dahl, T.E., 1990, Wetlands--Losses in the United States, 1780's to 1980's: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Report to Congress, 13 p.

Dahl, T.E., and Johnson, C.E., 1991, Wetlands--Status and trends in the conterminous United States, mid-1970's to mid-1980's: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 22 p.

Erickson, R.E., 1979, Federal programs influencing wetlands, Seventh Annual Michigan Landuse Policy Conference: East Lansing, Mich., Michigan State University, 246 p.

Erickson, R.E., Linder, R.L., and Harmon, K.W., 1979,
Stream channelization (p.l. 83-566) increased wetland losses in the Dakotas: Wildlife Society Bulletin, v. 7, no. 2, p. 71-78.

Eyre, F.H., 1980, Forest cover types of the United States and Canada: Washington, D.C., Society of American Foresters, 148 p.

Frayer, W.E., Monahan, T.J., Bowden, D.C., and Graybill, F.A., 1983, Status and trends of wetlands and deepwater habitats in the conterminous United States, 1950's to 1970's: Fort Collins, Colo., Colorado State University, 31 p.

Frayer, W.E., Peters, D.D., and Pywell, H.R., 1989, Wetlands of the California Central Valley--Status and Trends--1939 to mid 1980's: Portland, Oreg., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 28 p.

Freeman, A.E., and Bussewitz, W.R., 1948, History of Horicon: Horicon, Wis., undated, 126 p.

Garrett, W.E., ed., 1988, Historical atlas of the United States: Washington, D.C., National Geographic Society, 289 p.

Glaser, P.H., 1987, The ecology of patterned boreal peatlands of northern Minnesota--A community profile: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Report 85 (7.14), 98 p.

Gordon, R.B., 1969, The natural vegetation of Ohio in pioneer days: Columbus, Ohio, Bulletin of the Ohio Biological Survey, v. III, no. 2, Ohio State University, 113 p.

Green, W.E., 1984, The great river refuge, in Hawkins, A.S., Hanson, R.C., Nelson, H.K., and Reeves, H.M., eds., Flyways--Pioneering waterfowl management in North America: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, p. 431-439.

Howe, Henry, 1900, Historical collections of Ohio: Cincinnati, Ohio, Ohio centennial edition, Published by the State of Ohio, v. 1, p. 881.

Hundley, Norris, Jr., 1992, The great thirst--Californians and water, 1700's-1990's: Berkeley, Calif., University of California Press, 551 p.

Knue, Joseph, 1988, Of time and prairie--100 years of people and wildlife in North Dakota--Observations in change: Bismarck, N. Dak., North Dakota State Game and Fish Department, 106 p.

Light, S.S., and Dineen, J.W., 1994, Water control in The Everglades--A historical perspective, in Davis, S.M., and Ogden, J.C., eds., Everglades--The ecosystem and its restoration: Delray Beach, Fla., St. Lucie Press, p. 47-84. Lord, L.A., 1993, Guide to Florida environmental issues and information: Winter Park, Fla., Florida Conservation Foundation, 364 p.

McManis, D.R., 1964, The initial evaluation and utilization of the Illinois prairies, 1815-1840: Chicago, Ill., University of Chicago, Department of Geography Research Paper no. 94, 109 p.

McNall, N.A., 1952, An agricultural history of the Genesee Valley, 1790-1860: Philadelphia, Pa., University of Pennsylvania Press, 276 p.

Middleton, E.P., 1917, History of Champaign County, Ohio, its people, industries and institutions: Indianapolis, Ind., B.E. Bowen and Co., Inc., 116 p.

Office of Technology Assessment, 1984, Wetlands--Their use and regulation: Washington, D.C., U.S. Congress, OTA-0-206, 208 p.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 1988, Ohio wetlands priority conservation plan--An addendum to the 1986 Ohio statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan: Office of Outdoor Recreation Services, 67 p.

Pavelis, G.A., ed., 1987, Farm drainage in the United States--History, status, and prospects: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Pub. No. 1455, 170 p.

Ross, E.D., 1956, Retardation in farm technology before the power age: Agricultural History 30, p. 11-18.

Schrader, T.A., 1955, Waterfowl and the potholes of the north central states, in The yearbook of agriculture 1955: Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture, 84th Congress, 1st Session, House Document no. 32, p. 596-604.

Shaw, S.P., and Fredine, C.G., 1956, Wetlands of the United States--Their extent and their value to waterfowl and other wildlife: Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Circular 39, 67 p.

Stover, J.F., 1961, American railroads: Chicago, Ill., University of Chicago Press, 310 p.

Tant, P.L., 1981, Soil survey of Washington County, North Carolina: Washington, D.C., U.S. Soil Conservation Service, 99 p.

Tebeau, C.W., 1980, A history of Florida: Coral Gables, Fla., University of Miami Press, 527 p.

Trowell, C.T., 1988, Exploring the Okefenokee--Roland M. Harper in the Okefenokee Swamp, 1902 and 1919: Douglas, Ga., North Georgia College, Research Paper no. 2, 89 p.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1832, Return of the whole number of persons within the several districts of the U.S., 1830: Washington, D.C.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1991, United States Department of the Interior budget justification--Fiscal year 1992: Washington, D.C., 121 p.

______, Undated, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge: Swan Quarter, N.C., (Brochure).

U.S. Geological Survey,1984, Wisconsin State base map: U.S. Geological Survey, scale 1:500,000.

Washington County Historical Society, 1979, Historic Washington County: Plymouth, N.C., 31 p.

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Titanium Statistics and Information

Titanium occurs primarily in the minerals anatase, brookite, ilmenite, leucoxene, perovskite, rutile, and sphene. Of these minerals, only ilmenite, leucoxene, and rutile have significant economic importance. As a metal, titanium is well known for corrosion resistance and for its high strength-to-weight ratio. Approximately 95% of titanium is consumed in the form of titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment in paints, paper, and plastics. TiO2 pigment is characterized by its purity, refractive index, particle size, and surface properties. To develop optimum pigment properties, the particle size is controlled within the range of about 0.2 to 0.4 micrometer. The superiority of TiO2 as a white pigment is due mainly to its high refractive index and resulting light-scattering ability, which impart excellent hiding power and brightness.

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The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is a Federal body created in 1890 and established in its present form by Public Law in 1947 to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government. The Board comprises representatives of Federal agencies concerned with geographic information, population, ecology, and management of public lands. Sharing its responsibilities with the Secretary of the Interior, the Board promulgates official geographic feature names with locative attributes as well as principles, policies, and procedures governing the use of domestic names, foreign names, Antarctic names, and undersea feature names.

The original program of names standardization addressed the complex issues of domestic geographic feature names during the surge of exploration, mining, and settlement of western territories after the American Civil War. Inconsistencies and contradictions among many names, spellings, and applications became a serious problem to surveyors, map makers, and scientists who required uniform, non-conflicting geographic nomenclature. President Benjamin Harrison signed an Executive Order establishing the Board and giving it authority to resolve unsettled geographic names questions. Decisions of the Board were accepted as binding by all departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

The Board gradually expanded its interests to include foreign names and other areas of interest to the United States, a process that accelerated during World War II. In 1947, the Board was recreated by Congress in Public_Law_80-242. The Bylaws of the Board have been in place since 1948 and have been revised when needed. The usefulness of standardizing (not regulating) geographic names has been proven time and again, and today more than 50 nations have some type of national names authority. The United Nations stated that "the best method to achieve international standardization is through strong programs of national standardization." Numerous nations established policies relevant to toponomy (the study of names) in their respective countries.

In this age of geographic information systems, the Internet, and homeland defense, geographic names data are even more important and more challenging. Applying the latest technology, the Board on Geographic Names continues its mission. It serves the Federal Government and the public as a central authority to which name problems, name inquiries, name changes, and new name proposals can be directed. In partnership with Federal, State, and local agencies, the Board provides a conduit through which uniform geographic name usage is applied and current names data are promulgated.

For geographic feature names policies applying to the United States, or to the use of foreign geographic names, Antarctica names, and undersea feature names by the United States, see the respective items in the main menu on the left. Any person or organization, public or private, may make inquiries or request the Board to render formal decisions on proposed new names, proposed name changes, or names that are in conflict. Meetings are open to the public and are held according to schedule. Minutes of the Board's meetings are available. Communications concerning the Board should be addressed to:

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