In-Depth: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to reauthorize the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992, which is a national partnership to produce advanced digital geologic maps and three-dimensional models:
“This legislation ensures continued collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey, state surveys, and universities to ensure responsible use natural resources and to mitigate the impact of geologic hazards. Forty-nine states and Puerto Rico have participated to date, resulting in 8,500 new maps. Those of us on the Natural Resources Committee are working to produce the most efficient bill possible. We realize the importance this carries for many land, water, and mineral resources across the nation. The program data routinely impacts decisions protecting ground water, locating new municipal wells, identifying potential mineral resources, and protecting homeowners from geologic hazards in my home state of Colorado. Renewing the Act will solve a broad spectrum of land-use concerns.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is the sponsor of the Senate version of this bill, adds that much of the U.S. has yet to be mapped in detail:
“We don’t have a detailed geologic map for even one-third of the United States, yet it lays the foundation for minimizing risks from natural hazards and is the linchpin to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign minerals. Reauthorizing this widely-supported program will help ensure responsible land management and provide the tools required to educate our next generation of mappers.”
Funds spent under the National Geological Mapping Act’s mapping program seem to reap significant benefits. An assessment of the economic benefits of detailed geologic mapping in Kentucky and Illinois estimated that the economic return to Kentucky was 25-39 times the cost of the program. It also found that geologic maps in Kentucky benefitted many end users, including city planners, coal and other mineral resource developers, water users, and others. Similarly, in Ohio, developers and engineers using geologic maps saved an average of $50,000 on each project.
This bill has two cosponsors in the current Congress. Last Congress, it passed the House with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD).
There is a Senate version of this bill, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which costs slightly more than this version ($310 million over the 2019-2023 period, versus $246 million over the same period for this bill). Sen. Murkowski’s bill has the support of nine cosponsors, including four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent.
Of Note: At its inception, the National Geological Mapping Act of 1992 was intended to reverse the decline of geologic mapping in the U.S. by establishing a National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). The Act specifically cites several applications of the data obtained from geologic maps: mineral, energy and water resource exploration; toxic and nuclear waste disposal; environmental land use planning; decreasing the impact of a multitude of natural hazards; constructing and maintaining infrastructure; and geoscience research.
Today, the NCGMP is a partnership between state governments, the federal government, and universities. It provides the majority of funds for the production of geologic maps in the U.S. NCGMP-funded entities collaborate to manage data collection and create and distribute geologic maps and three-dimensional framework models.
The maps produced under the National Geological Mapping Act of 1992 contribute to responsible land management across the U.S., mitigate natural hazards, foster economic growth, and provide tools to educate the next generation of mappers.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / PaulCowan)