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Why USGS and all other US maps are being degraded


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Do a search and down load PDF GAO-10-296 . (General Accounting Office)

It is dry complicated reading but it explains the removal of many map features.


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Looks like along with various Government changes ... for personal protection you have changed your name to Maz ... Yup! ... That will throw lots of officials off your trail! :)

Mike F

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There is a very active program by the USGS to archive, scan and make available every topo map ever produced. Many of the scanned topos have changes every year or two. Many of the variations have hand made notes by the surveyors or field personal at the time. Some of these are very instructive, in particular when you can see the changes year to year. I found it fascinating that none of these topos have all of the information and it is necessary to download each version to get the whole picture.

The USGS has been making good progress on this project for several years and there is a reasonable probability that they have maps available for your area of interest. We are working on incorporating these maps into our own FootPrints projects over the next few years as they become available.

Find em here:


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You are welcome Chris. I'm thinking your MacGPSPro will find these quite delicious.

As for copyright... the American people have already paid for them.

From the horse's mouth to you:

"With the exception of licensed commercial road data, these maps have no copyright. For maps with commercial roads (roughly, maps produced after April 2010), the commercial provider retains copyright to the road data. All other data are public domain. US Topos, even those that include commercial roads, may be reproduced freely, and used for any purpose, provided the commercial road copyright notice is retained. The USGS always appreciates receiving credit whenever our products are used."

Use them well and enjoy.

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These are GeoPDF's of one layer. They can be problematic to use in an application if you don't know the back way in.

You might have some problems putting these together. The USGS states upfront that there are no commercial GIS applications that can import and use this format.

Technically they are right. If you want to use a paid program you are out of luck. Luckily all the paid programs run on open source (free) software that will happily and quickly convert these to the format you want to use with your program. What you are paying for with a commercial program is an easy to use and understand interface to run these open source programs with.

GDAL is the key. It is pretty much the core of all mapping functionality in all those commercial programs. It is a small command line program that runs on all platforms. With a single line command you can convert the format, clip the collars (white space around the edge), put it in the projection you want and output the result with the name you want in the place you want it to live. Another command and it will stitch them together into one big map. If you can type you can do some very high level map functions that no commercial program can come close to. Putting these into a format and projection that your MACGPSPro can easily use should be a snap once you get the hang of the terminal commands on your Mac. The cool part is that they are already geo-referenced so you don't have to go through the tedious process of hand geo-referencing them.

The USGS says they have available more than 141,000 historic topos available out of the ~180,000 ever made. That's a bunch of old topo maps. There should be something in there that just about everyone can use.

If you (or anyone else) want help with figuring out the process I would be happy to help - time permitting.

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Local survey office has complete series in any/all formats for $3 a pop and discs available. The Forest service unit here in Redding has all the latest greatest hi tech chartography equipment and their maps are MUCH better than USGS-John

Edited by Hoser John
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