The State of North Dakota once did not figure prominently in the Nation’s economy. The sparsely populated State supported food production, and hunters and anglers were drawn to its lakes, rivers, and wide-open spaces, but its economy was overshadowed by that of other States. However, the State and its prairie expanses recently rocketed from an economic afterthought to a national energy leader with the soaring production of oil and natural gas in the Bakken oil patch.
The Bakken development has been transformative for North Dakota’s landscapes in myriad ways. It has boosted economic output, drawn thousands of new residents to cities like Williston and Watford City, and led to a proliferation of oil and gas pads.
In the past two decades, North Dakota experienced other major changes, such as the expansion of the depressional wetlands of the Prairie Pothole Region on the eastern side of the State. These critical breeding areas for waterfowl, which stretch across Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Canada, are home to more than 50 percent of North America’s migratory birds.
Changes from oil and gas production, urban development, and wetland resurgence can all be tracked over time using the unparalleled Earth observation record of the U.S. Geological Survey Landsat data archive. Its 50-year record of repeat imagery also aids in the monitoring, cataloging, and management of cropland, invasive insect species, and natural or human-made disaster recovery. Here are just a few examples of the benefits offered to North Dakota by the Landsat Program.