Governments depend on a common set of geographic base information as a tool for economic and community development, land and natural resource management, and health and safety services. Emergency management and defense operations rely on this information. Private industry, nongovernmental organizations, and individual citizens use the same geographic data. Geographic information underpins an increasingly large part of the Nation's economy.
Available geographic data often have the following problems:
* They do not align with each other because layers are frequently created or revised separately,
* They do not match across administrative boundaries because each producing organization uses different methods and standards, and
* They are not up to date because of the complexity and cost of revision.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is developing The National Map to be a seamless, continuously maintained, and nationally consistent set of online, public domain, geographic base information to address these issues. The National Map will serve as a foundation for integrating, sharing, and using other data easily and consistently.
In collaboration with other government agencies, the private sector, academia, and volunteer groups, the USGS will coordinate, integrate, and, where needed, produce and maintain base geographic data.
The National Map will include digital orthorectified imagery; elevation data; vector data for hydrography, transportation, boundary, and structure features; geographic names; and land cover information. The data will be the source of revised paper topographic maps.
Many technical and institutional issues must be resolved as The National Map is implemented. To begin the refinement of this new paradigm, pilot projects are being designed to identify and investigate these issues. The pilots are the foundation upon which future partnerships for data sharing and maintenance will be built.