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Why are there no power lines, pipelines, libraries, trails, etc. on US Topo maps?

The original USGS 7.5-minute (1:24,000 scale) Historical Topographic Maps (produced 1945-1992) included feature classes that are not yet shown on US Topo maps (produced 2009-present). Examples include pipelines, power lines, survey markers, many types of boundaries, and many types of buildings. The USGS no longer does field verification or other primary data collection for these feature classes, and there are no national data sources suitable for general-purpose, 1:24,000-scale maps. For many of these feature classes, the USGS is working with other agencies to develop data. Over time, as these data become available and are included in The National Map, that content will be added to the US Topos.

Since US Topo maps are mass produced from national databases, some features shown on traditional maps might never be included on US Topo maps. For example, a national database of isolated ranch windmills and water tanks is unlikely to ever be built.

  • Recreational trails -- Trails are problematic due to a lack of national data sources, but federal land management agencies and other organizations are providing data to the USGS and more trails are shown on US Topo each year. To date, major sources include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the International Mountain Biking Association. We expect the number of recreational trails on the maps to steadily increase in the coming years, particularly on federal lands. 

  • Public Land Survey System (PLSS) -- PLSS has been published on US Topo maps since 2013 for all of the 29 continental PLSS states. PLSS is also included on Alaska maps. 

  • Wetlands -- Wetlands were added as a US Topo layer in late 2015 using data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory. Wetlands are included on US Topo maps published 2016 or later and on 2015 maps for Wisconsin, Idaho, and Kansas. Wetlands data are not cartographically integrated with other layers and in some cases might appear inconsistent with other hydrography features.

  • Buildings and structures -- Traditional topographic maps locate and label a variety of public buildings and structures, such as courthouses, libraries, transportation terminals, and bridges. National public domain datasets of these feature classes do not currently exist. Although these kinds of features are not generally within USGS scope, we are working with other government agencies and incorporating crowd-sourced information to develop selected structures data. 

  • Railroads -- In 2012 we began publishing railroad data provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, which is now the source of railroads on all US Topo maps.

  • Powerlines, oil and gas pipelines, other energy infrastructure -- Except for a few unusual instances, such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, these features are not shown on US Topo maps. National public domain datasets do not exist and there are security reasons for not publishing these data.

  • Landmarks -- Unique landmark features might include buildings, natural features, isolated monuments, and points of interest. No national GIS database of landmark features exists, and constructing one is problematic. Nevertheless, not having such a dataset leads to cartographic oddities, such as not labeling the White House. The US Topo project hopes to eventually address this problem as part of the buildings and structures issue discussed above.

  • Remote roads -- Traditional topographic maps were compiled in part from direct field observations and were a unique source for remote and unimproved roads. Building a national public domain road dataset that can rival the traditional topographic map series for overall completeness and accuracy is a long-term problem that is being discussed by several federal agencies. 

  • Recreational features (campgrounds, boat docks, swimming pools, golf courses, etc) -- Most of these feature types will never be a high priority for USGS mapping. In 2017, US Topo maps began showing selected campgrounds, picnic areas, and cabins provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

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