Elevation data are essential to a broad range of applications, including forest resources management, wildlife and habitat management, national security, recreation, and many others. For the State of Alaska, elevation data are critical for aviation navigation and safety, natural resources conservation, oil and gas resources, flood risk management, geologic resource assessment and hazards mitigation, forest resources management, and other business uses. Today, high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar) data and interferometric synthetic aperature radar (ifsar) are the primary sources for deriving elevation models and datasets. Federal, State, and local agencies work in partnership to (1) replace data, on a national basis, that are older and of lower quality and (2) provide coverage where publicly accessible data do not exist.
Recent mapping information for the majority of land in Alaska is not available because clouds, smoke, and remoteness have hampered data collection. Lidar data have been collected only at selected coastal areas, cities, refuges, and parks. Within the last decade, ifsar technology has become the most effective tool for overcoming the challenges to acquiring elevation data for Alaska because this technology can penetrate clouds. State efforts for the collection of ifsar data are being coordinated through Alaska’s Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative (SDMI), a cooperative program implemented across six State of Alaska departments and the University of Alaska. Federal efforts are coordinated through the Alaska Mapping Executive Committee (AMEC), chaired by the Department of the Interior with membership from 15 Federal agencies and representatives from the State of Alaska.
Coordination by SDMI and AMEC avoids duplication of effort and ensures a unified approach to consistent, statewide data acquisition; the enhancement of existing data; and support for emerging applications. The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative, managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), responds to the growing need for high-quality topographic data and a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features.