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Implementation plan for the southern Pacific Border and Sierra-Cascade Mountains provinces

April 5, 2021


The National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) is publishing a strategic plan titled Renewing the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program as the Nation’s Authoritative Source for Modern Geologic Knowledge (Brock and others, in press). The plan provides a vision, mission, and goals for the program during the years 2020–2030, which are:

  • Vision.—Create an integrated, three-dimensional, digital geologic map of the United States.
  • Mission.—Characterize, interpret, and disseminate a national geologic framework model of the Earth through geologic mapping.
  • Goal.—Focus on geologic mapping as a core function of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) within the long-term vision of adequately mapping the Nation’s geologic framework in three dimensions.  

In order to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan, the NCGMP has developed an implementation plan. This plan will guide the annual review of projects carried out by USGS staff (FEDMAP) described in the plan and the development of the annual FEDMAP prospectus that will ensure the effective application of the NCGMP strategy.

This publication describes the implementation plan of the NCGMP strategy for the southern Pacific Border and Sierra-Cascade Mountains provinces, as defined by Fenneman (1917, 1928, and 1946). This implementation plan focuses on the geology of California and a sliver of Nevada surrounding Lake Tahoe. The southern Pacific Border and Sierra-Cascade Mountains provinces encompass the varied landscapes of the high Sierra Nevada, the Central Valley, and Coast Ranges in northern and central California and the Peninsular Ranges, Continental Borderland, Los Angeles Basin-San Gabriel-San Bernardino valleys, western and central Transverse Ranges, and northernmost Salton Trough in southern California. Societal demands create a need for earth-science data in each of these landscapes. The broader San Francisco Bay area, Central Valley, Los Angeles-San Gabriel-San Bernardino lowlands, and the coastal lowlands that border the Peninsular Ranges are densely populated (about 30 million people) areas at high risk of natural hazards. The mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Peninsular Ranges, and Transverse Ranges, and the coast all provide numerous recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the world, whereas previously these ranges attracted people to mine their resources. The agricultural capacity of the Central Valley is a critical resource for the Nation that is increasingly water limited.

The southern. Pacific Border and Sierra-Cascade Mountains provinces, at the edge of the North American continent, were profoundly influenced by subduction zone tectonics during the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic (ongoing in northernmost California) and subsequently by the inception, development, and present activity of the San Andreas transform margin system. Although the geology of this region is the poster child of fundamental conceptual models of subduction zone complexes, forearc basins, ophiolite obductions, magmatic arcs, and suspect terranes, as well as hosting one of Earth’s most notorious continental transform faults—the San Andreas Fault—important questions that have important societal consequences remain to be answered. Most of California’s population reside in these provinces and live within 30 miles of an active fault (according to yet new faults continue to be discovered, highlighting the importance of deformation off the main San Andreas Fault. Bedrock, surficial, and three-dimensional (3D) geologic maps depicting stratigraphic structure and depth to crystalline basement rocks provide critical context and information for understanding fault rupture, distributed deformation, fault connectivity, and history in addition to providing crucial data that enable forecasting of shaking amplitude and length from hypothetical earthquake scenarios.

The tectonic evolution of California produced not only stunning mountains, with associated hazards from landslides and active volcanoes, but also fertile valleys that make California the top agricultural producer in the country in terms of cash receipts (according to These valleys lie atop large basins that not only store groundwater but, in many cases, host oil and gas fields, contributing to the fourth highest hydrocarbon production by State in the country in 2016 (according to Water is a key resource increasingly stressed by growing agricultural, industrial, and residential needs. Warmer and drier conditions have led to an increased reliance on extracting groundwater resources, whose availability and quality are dictated at the first order by the 3D spatial distribution of bedrock and Quaternary surficial deposits. Thus, assessment of this critical resource is inextricably tied to knowledge of the surficial and subsurface geologic structure and material types.

Publication Year 2021
Title Implementation plan for the southern Pacific Border and Sierra-Cascade Mountains provinces
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211012
Authors Victoria E. Langenheim, Russell W. Graymer, Robert E. Powell, Kevin M. Schmidt, Donald S. Sweetkind
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2021-1012
Index ID ofr20211012
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center