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FGDC Newsletter Spring 1999

1999 National GeoData Forum

Making Livable Communities a Reality

The 1999 National GeoData Forum, June 7-9, 1999, at the Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, DC, will focus on the role geographic data play in creating livable communities. It will examine how these data can best be organized and used in policy and decision making to address the social, economic, and environmental aspects of communities.

The forum will also address how the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) furthers these goals, and how the private sector can contribute to the NSDI initiative. "This initiative is poised to take off because we can now provide decision makers with concrete examples of how geographic information technologies are being used every day to solve real world problems," said Mark Schaefer, deputy assistant secretary for water and science, Department of Interior. "This will be an exciting and timely meeting. We invite citizens and leaders in the public and private sectors to participate."

    "This will be an exciting and timely meeting."

The meeting will bring together leaders from all levels of government, private industry, academia, and nonprofit institutions to discuss geographic information technology, data access, financing, research and education, and organizational and leadership methods and models. Vice President Al Gore, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and several other top government and private sector representatives are scheduled to speak. The forum will conclude with a policy roundtable.

    "This is a great opportunity to get involved in setting the direction for this important national initiative."

Forum participants will discuss how geographic data can be used in decision making; meet political, government, and industry representatives; and have the opportunity to communicate directly with them and provide input. "Using common solutions and sharing data will dramatically improve the way we make decisions," said U.S. Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), a member of the Steering Committee. "This is a great opportunity to get involved in setting the direction for this important national initiative."

Registration Information for 1999 National GeoData Forum

Registration fees (per person) Before May 17 On-site
Full Registration (June7-9)  $325   $545
Monday, June 7 only  $165   $175
Tuesday, June 8 only  $165   $175
Wednesday, June 9 only  $95   $95

Registration fee includes:
All sessions
Continental breakfast each day
Lunch on Tuesday
Reception on Monday evening
All refreshment breaks
A program, participant roster, and printed final report

Don't Duck Metadata

1999 CAP Focuses on Documenting Data

The 1999 NSDI Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) is devoted to projects that will further framework data documentation and clearinghouse development. The Don't Duck Metadata Program will make awards to scores of federal, state, and local organizations nationwide. Up to $1,400,000 is available for the grant program this year. Awardees will be announced at the 1999 National GeoData Forum in June.

    "This program will rally the geospatial data community behind a clear and elevating goal that increases awareness and use of framework data and quickly populates the clearinghouse."

The purpose of the Don't Duck Metadata Program is to provide grant funding to help organizations create descriptive information about digital geospatial data and to make those descriptions available for search and retrieval through a distributed electronically connected network of public, Internet-based clearinghouses. The long-range goal is to document and serve descriptions of all existing framework data sets, including, but not limited to, those data sets identified through the National States Geographic Information Council's Framework Data Survey (see article under framework initiative later in this newsletter). The framework data themes are geodetic control, orthoimagery, elevation, transportation, hydrography, governmental units, and cadastral information. The participants in this metadata program will develop descriptions or metadata for existing framework data sets, collect framework metadata, and serve these metadata through new or existing clearinghouse nodes. The program will develop searchable metadata, reach new geographic areas and organizations, and strengthen the framework and GIS coordination network.

The program is funding three types of efforts:

  • assisting organizations in their efforts to create metadata descriptions for their framework data sets and serving the metadata on NSDI clearinghouses,
  • providing training and other technical assistance, and
  • coordinating the provision of training and technical assistance to organizations in a region.

"This program will rally the geospatial data community behind a clear and elevating goal that increases awareness and use of framework data, and quickly populates the clearinghouse," said John Moeller, FGDC staff director. For more information, visit the FGDC website or attend the GeoData Forum.

Community-Federal Information Partnership

In a January press conference, Vice President Gore made several announcements concerning the administration's initiatives related to improving community livability and urban sprawl. One of the featured initiatives is the Community-Federal Information Partnership, a competitive grant program developed by the FGDC. These grants and cooperative agreements will support communities' efforts to advance their capabilities to use geographic information systems in their planning efforts. To fund this initiative, the FY2000 budget proposes to distribute $39.5M among six federal agencies--the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bulk of the funding will be directed to grants to communities, and the remaining funds will be used to help federal agencies organize information and make it available to communities.



Framework Survey Data Now Available Online

The data collection and initial quality control phases of the Framework Data Survey, conducted by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), have been completed. The preliminary survey data are now available online. They can be accessed through the FGDC website at

The survey was conducted in 1997-98 and includes results from more than 5,000 respondents in state, local, and federal government agencies; private industry; nonprofit organizations; and others who produce and use geographic data. It provides a snapshot of the characteristics of the framework data being developed and the organizations developing them. Framework data themes include geodetic control, orthoimagery, elevation, transportation, hydrography, governmental units, and cadastral information.

The survey data may be viewed and analyzed in a variety of forms. The simplest form is a dBase table that contains the preliminary results. A supplemental file contains the write-in answers for certain questions. Two spatial mapping files have been created to allow users to map the results. To supplement the basic survey data and spatial shape files, you can download an ArcView 3.1 project file, provided to the project by the Environmental Systems Research Institute.

Those using the survey data should familiarize themselves with the survey approach and questions. Information about the survey method and a copy of the original survey can also be downloaded.

All of these resources are available on the FGDC website.

Reports on the survey findings will also be published this year. The first report, providing preliminary results, will be distributed as a supplement to Geo Info Systems in the spring and the full results will be reported in an FGDC-published document later in the year.

Developing a Standard for Sharing Transportation Data

The FGDC Ground Transportation Subcommittee is sponsoring the development of a Framework Transportation Identification Standard for describing road segments as unique geographic features, independent of cartographic and analytic network representation. These road segments will form the basis for sharing and transactional updating of framework road databases.

Creation of the framework will depend on the contribution of transportation databases developed for specific geographic areas and applications by many federal, state, and local transportation agencies. These databases are developed at different scales, with different levels of positional accuracy, detail, currency, and completeness of coverage. They must be "stitched together" to provide the network connectivity required for many transportation applications. When new databases are added to the framework or when specific attributes are updated, users of framework data must be able to cost-effectively incorporate this new information into their applications.

Bruce Spear, of the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, chairs the FGDC Ground Transportation Subcommittee. Spear commented on the pressing need for a new standard: "Successful integration of the 'best available' transportation databases into a national framework will support many applications-commercial and public, large-scale and small. However, success depends upon the production of transportation data for each geographic area according to standards that allow users to share data and allow spatial databases to be connected topologically to transportation data for adjacent areas."

Spear also pointed out that this FGDC standards development effort is intended to allow the greatest possible opportunity for public discussion of the goals and methods proposed. First, the subcommittee has assembled a technical review team to apply a range of knowledgeable viewpoints in the early stages of development. The team includes representatives of other federal agencies (U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highways; U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau; and the Department of the Interior, USGS National Mapping Division), the Intelligent Transportation Systems community, and NSDI partner organizations (the National States Geographic Information Council and the National Association of Counties).

Second, BTS has created a website ( on behalf of the subcommittee. This website encourages open discussion of the Framework Transportation Identification Standard among potential stakeholders in both the transportation and the spatial data communities. The site is host to the Road Data Forum, a combined newsgroup and e-mail listserver for discussing the Framework Transportation Identification Standard. The site provides the most current version of the draft standard and links to technical reference documents relating to linear referencing systems and other topics.

Readers are encouraged to visit the website, join the forum, participate in the discussions, and make suggestions for improving the proposed standard. For further information, see the website or contact Bruce Spear at 202-366-8870.


More than 100 Clearinghouses and Growing

A total of 109 clearinghouses are now listed in the search pages for the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. New additions included 14 servers from Australia that represent most Australian states, the Commonwealth government, and a private data node. U.S. clearinghouse additions since December include:

  • Princeton University
  • U.S. Minerals Management Service
  • Southwest Data Center
  • Alaska State Geospatial Data Clearinghouse


Clearinghouse Search Access

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the EROS Data Center, and the FGDC are now hosting clearinghouse gateways, each with a copy of the Blue Angel Meta Star Gateway software. This configuration allows greater regional access for searching the growing distributed clearinghouse holdings and provides redundancy in case of network or system troubles.

The clearinghouse can be searched at the following URLs;

and, as always, via the FGDC website.

These gateways and others will be viewable through hardware as a single URL, thanks to a router enhancement known as a distributed director. More information about clearinghouse access will be provided as it becomes available.

Tell Your Users About the Clearinghouse

Now that the clearinghouse has several hundred thousand online metadata entries, we encourage you to link your data-search web pages to the generic clearinghouse search pages. Local information searches can be supplemented with clearinghouse searches by pasting the following linking text into an HTML page:

Search the NSDI Clearinghouse for Spatial Data

Map Search Server

The clearinghouse will be hosting Internet map server software to serve edition 3 (edition 4 for North America) of the Digital Chart of the World (DCW). These map data will be used as backdrop reference "search" maps for clearinghouse searches by the Naval Research Laboratory's Master Environmental Library and FGDC Java map applets. The map searches will enable zoom and redraw capabilities not presently available in the applet used by the custom search interface discussed above. The DCW maps will be served from the FGDC Sun server using Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) Spatial Data Engine on Oracle 8. Data loading is scheduled to be completed for the full DCW in March.

ESRI Provides ArcData Online

The NSDI clearinghouse now includes a node for ArcData Online from ESRI. ArcData Online provides minimum FGDC metadata entries for free and brokered spatial data available online from ESRI. Through its data partnerships with several U.S. federal agencies, the ArcData Online node also provides access to versions of the U.S. Bureau of the Census TIGER files, National Imagery and Mapping Agency Digital Chart of the World, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The node also contains metadata for such online commercial data sets as U.S. streets, topographic maps, and environmental hazards.

"ESRI is very excited to establish the ArcData Online NSDI clearinghouse node," said Jack Dangermond, president of ESRI. "We see this as yet another step to the increasing widespread availability of distributed geospatial databases. Spatial information within the NSDI is becoming more easily accessible and available to everyone."

Doug Nebert, FGDC clearinghouse coordinator, commented on the benefits of commercial involvement: "Commercial implementations of metadata and clearinghouses provide interested parties with free advertising for their spatial data and services. These activities also raise the potential that software vendors could someday make metadata management an integrated and simpler task than now-eventually enabling software users to become data and metadata publishers using community standards."

Deane Kensok, of ESRI, manages the ArcData Online site and has been coordinating the clearinghouse node. For further information, contact him at 909-793-2853 or


FGDC/ISO Metadata Standard Harmonization

The process to harmonize the Metatdata standard progressed in 1998. The registered review of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Metadata Standard Committee Draft resulted in 450 adjudicated comments that were processed and submitted to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) L1 Committee by the FGDC in October. The FGDC comments were further adjudicated and ANSI L1 delivered a position that was incorporated in the United States comments on the ISO Technical Committee 211-15 Metadata Standard Committee Draft at the U.S. TAG meeting.

In December, the TC211-15 Metadata Standards Committee Draft Editing Committee met to review and adjudicate the more than 960 comments received from all nations on the ISO draft. The meeting included attendees from more than 10 countries and ISO liaison groups. The FGDC and ANSI L1 comments were very well received by the editing committee which generally agreed on the comment and proposed resolutions. The results of the editing committee meeting included agreement to develop a list of "essential metatdata" to be required for every metadata record, develop a metadata dictionary/repository from which ISO metadata profiles could be derived, and restructure the document to make it easier to understand, use, and model. The draft is being modified to include all approved national comments. It is anticipated that the ISO Metadata Standard will be reissued this summer as a committee draft. The new scheduled date for ISO TC211 Metadata Standard approval is spring 2000.

Future harmonization activities will include developing an FGDC registered profile of the ISO Metadata Standard, coordination of ISO Metadata tool development (both metadata record migration software and new collection software), and developing educational training materials and factsheets.


Orthoimagery and SDTS Raster Profile Standards Endorsed

The final draft of the NSDI Content Standard for Digital Orthoimagery was approved by the FGDC Standards Working Group (SWG) and endorsed by the FGDC Steering Committee in February. This standard defines the orthoimagery theme of the digital geospatial data framework. It sets a common baseline that will ensure the widest use of digital orthoimagery. The standard describes processing, accuracy, reporting, and applications considerations for digital orthoimagery.

The final draft version of the Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS), Part 5: Raster Profile with Extensions was submitted in October 1998 to the FGDC SWG and received final endorsement in February 1999. This raster profile and extension provide a common transfer format to be used for interchanging raster image and raster grid data among all members of the data producer and user communities. It expands the applicability of the SDTS raster profile to broaden the utility of the SDTS transfer format, providing a vehicle to enhance data sharing and reduce redundant data production. The standard contains specifications of a profile for use with geo-referenced two-dimensional raster data and excludes vector data and three- and higher-dimension raster data. This profile combines the Draft FIPS Part 5 Raster Profile of SDTS, the ISO/IEC Committee Draft 12087-5 Basic Image Interchange Format raster transmission standards, and the GeoTIFF Version 1.0 specification. It replaces the existing Draft FIPS SDTS Part 5: Raster Profile, and falls into the "transfer standard" type as defined by the FGDC SWG Standards Reference Model.

Both of these standards were sponsored by the FGDC Subcommittee on Base Cartographic Data, headed by acting chair Ken Osborn. For further information, contact John Crowe at 703-648-5596 or

FGDC/ISO Standard Harmonization Activities

The FGDC SWG continues to develop a strategy for harmonizing FGDC standards and the FGDC standards process with standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the Open GIS Consortium (OGC). Several information exchange meetings were held this quarter with the National Center for Information Technology Standards (NCITS) to better understand the NCITS standards development process. Similar informational meetings are being planned with ISO and OGC. For further information, contact Richard Pearsall, chair of the FGDC Standards Working Group, at 703-648-4532 or

How to get standards documents

The distribution policy for FGDC endorsed standards has changed. You can obtain standards documents in two ways.

By mail:
Request endorsed standards from the Earth Science Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Attn: D. Szarzi, PO Box 25286, Denver, CO; FAX: 303-202-4693.

Download documents from the FGDC website at

A listing of the status of all FGDC standards, including endorsed standards, can be found at


Open GIS Consortium

Over the past few years, the Open GIS Consortium, Inc. (OGC) has increased its cooperation with the FGDC to further standards development and the growth of the NSDI. OGC brings private sector technology and data providers together with universities and government technology users to work on interface standards. OGC has become a forum for private sector geospatial concerns and is supporting the FGDC's interest in working with the private sector. There is a natural basis for collaboration between FGDC and OGC and they are beginning to work together in several ways:

  • Demos and testbeds. FGDC and OGC have cooperated in a successful multivendor demonstration of interoperability, and FGDC is a sponsor of OGC's new web-mapping testbed. FGDC can bring major technology users into such initiatives to ensure that these initiatives address the real problems faced by customers.

  • New programs. Many new federal programs and policy initiatives share a need for geospatial interoperability in both FGDC's data domain and OGC's processing domain. In addition, these programs and initiatives must find the best ways to work with the private sector.

  • Private sector support for FGDC. Private businesses in the geospatial data industry have much to gain from data coordination, and they can contribute to the cause by implementing FGDC standards and promoting FGDC's programs in public forums and in their dealings with public agencies.

  • Standards. FGDC has provided valuable input into OGC's OpenGIS Catalogs Specification, which is positioned to be a useful standard for the geospatial data community.

"OGC and FGDC share an objective: the building of the NSDI," explained Lance McKee, vice president of corporate communications for OGC. "OGC, by its membership, mission, and history of cooperation with FGDC, is a natural link for FGDC to connect with the private sector. There are many ways to work together. NSDI stakeholders will benefit from the ongoing dialog and cooperation between FGDC and OGC."

For further information, contact Lance McKee at Open GIS Consortium, Inc., 35 Main Street, Suite 5, Wayland, MA 01778-5037; phone 508-655-5858; fax 508-655-2237; e-mail; or visit the OGC website at

TVA Parcel-Level GIS Project

The Tennessee Statewide Digital Basemapping Project is designed to develop a consistent, statewide framework of parcel-level information to support GIS development. The second pilot project, which included five counties, has just been completed, and statewide implementation plans are expected soon. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had a cooperative agreement with the state of Tennessee through which the pilot projects were conducted. TVA was responsible for managing the production of all data products. The state is providing 90 to 96 percent of the funding. The project is managed for the state by the Office for Information Resources in the Department of Finance and Administration and is very closely tied to the property assessment function. It addresses at least part of all the framework data themes, including:

  • geodetic control and aerotriangulation,
  • orthophotography,
  • planimetric features,
  • roads,
  • streams,
  • governmental units, and
  • cadastral information.

All parcels are linked to an attribute database that provides detailed assessment information. "One thing that is unique about Tennessee is that the state maintains a single database which holds all the assessment information for 90 of the 95 counties in the state, and there is a uniform tax map for the entire state," explained Alan Voss, manager of the Tennessee Parcel GIS Project at TVA. "This state-level coordination and primacy make uniform GIS development at the local level possible across the state."

For further information, contact Mark Tuttle, Director of GIS Services, State of Tennessee, 16th Floor, Tennessee Tower, 312 Eighth Avenue N., Nashville, TN 37243; phone 615-741-9356; e-mail, or Alan W. Voss, Project Manager, Tennessee Valley Authority, 1101 Market St. HB-2A, Chattanooga, TN 37402; phone 423-751-24425; e-mail

FGDC Secretariat

Gene Thorley Moves to New Position

Gene Thorley has left his position as the National Mapping Division (NMD) senior program advisor for external affairs to take on new duties as the USGS NMD liaison for Washington state. He is the senior representative in this area, providing liaison for NMD mapping activities as well as for information related to geology, biology, and water sciences.

Gene has had a long and distinguished career in the mapping sciences. He earned a BS and Ph.D. in forestry from the University of California at Berkeley and has worked in private industry, government, and university research programs. In 1988 he received the Department of the Interior's Distinguished Service Award for his contributions as a research scientist, principal advisor, and executive administrator. Since 1996, as the chief of the Office of External Affairs, Gene provided oversight, policy guidance, strategic planning, and coordination for the division in the areas of federal geographic data coordination, the NSDI, customer information, and international activities.

He has been a driving force behind NSDI and FGDC activities. He initiated much of the strategic vision for a national digital spatial information resource involving federal, state, and local governments and the private sector that would enable sharing and efficient transfer of spatial data among producers and users. This vision evolved into what is now known as the NSDI. To implement this vision, he guided efforts to better coordinate geographic data collection and use activities among federal agencies and advocated changes in the National Mapping Program that resulted in a goal to ensure the public availability-not just the production-of digital geographic data.

"Gene will be sorely missed in his role of 'wise man' behind the scenes of the Federal Geographic Data Committee," commented Nancy Tosta, director of forecasting and growth strategy for the Puget Sound Regional Council, and FGDC staff director from 1992 through 1995. "He never sought recognition for his many contributions to the concepts of the NSDI and the creation of the FGDC, always selflessly allowing others to take credit. Reston and Washington, DC will be much poorer places without him. However, selfishly, I welcome his move to the Pacific Northwest as, besides his many other attributes, he is also a good friend."

Moeller Heads Coordination Group

John Moeller, FGDC staff director, has assumed the chairmanship of the FGDC Coordination Group. He can be reached at the FGDC secretariat at 703-648-5752 and at

New FGDC Staff

The FGDC secretariat has added three new staff members.

Bonnie Gallahan is the new outreach and tribal coordinator. She will work to build stakeholder relationships with tribal organizations such as the Intertribal GIS Council. She will also focus on the broader stakeholder relationship activities. Bonnie was previously with the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Land Management.

Eric Goods joins the staff as a framework coordinator and will work on framework activities. He is from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, and is assigned to the FGDC secretariat's office for a one-year detail.

Milo Robinson is the new team leader for the framework initiative. He was previously with the National Geodetic Survey, where he served as the state geodetic advisor for Vermont.


National Research Council Study on Proprietary Rights Options for Scientific and Technical Databases

On January 14-15, 1999, the National Research Council (NRC) held a workshop on "Promoting Access to Scientific and Technical (S&T) Data for the Public Interest" in Washington, DC. The workshop was part of an NRC study supported by USGS and FGDC, as well as by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology of the Department of Commerce.

The objective of this activity is to develop a better understanding of the existing and proposed technical, legal, and policy options for protecting proprietary rights and promoting access to and use of S&T data, particularly for public interest uses such as research, education, and libraries. The study is intended to assist Congress as it develops new database protection legislation this session, and to help the federal agency sponsors respond to increased proprietary protection of databases in the United States and abroad. The proceedings of the meeting and the report of the study committee will be published by the NRC in June 1999.

For further information about this activity or the issues it addresses, please contact Paul F. Uhlir, the study director at the NRC at

Publications Available

Integrating Surveys of Terrestrial Natural Resources

The Sample Inventory and Monitoring of Natural Resources and Environment, a working group of the FGDC, has published the results of its study on integrating federal terrestrial natural resources surveys. A Study on Integrating Surveys of Terrestrial Natural Resources: The Oregon Demonstration Project describes an interagency project that demonstrated the feasibility of integrating federal surveys of terrestrial natural resources and offers a vision for that integration. At locations selected from Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA), National Forest System (NFS) Region 6, and National Resources Inventory (NRI) surveys in a six-county area in Northern Oregon, experienced teams interpreted and made measurements on aerial photographs and measured on-site a range of soil, vegetation, and animal attributes. The project demonstrated the feasibility of conducting a combined FIA/NFS/NRI survey at the sub-state level and suggested an approach that will preserve the utility of the critical historical information from these surveys. The authors suggest a framework for estimating the extent of forest and range land that explains FIA/NRI differences and provides a common basis for both surveys. They suggest indicator and protocol criteria that will allow compatible national and regional estimates for all vegetation types and stress the importance of including measurement repeatability in the design of the combined survey. The authors envision a program that integrates and coordinates inventory efforts measuring status and trends of terrestrial ecosystems under a combined structure supported by probability-based sampling.

The report was authored by Jeff Goebel of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hans Schreuder of the U.S. Forest Service, Carol House of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Paul Geissler of the U.S. Geological Survey, Tony Olsen of the Environmental Protection Service, and Bill Williams of the Bureau of Land Management. An FGDC publication, the report is named Forest Service Inventory and Monitoring Institute Report #2 and is available from the FGDC office and on its website.

Minnestoa Develops Data Accuracy Standard Handbook

The Minnesota Governor's Council on Geographic Information Standards Committee recently released Implementing the National Standard for Spatial Data Accuracy, a draft handbook that explains the new federal standard and guides data developers in evaluating the accuracy of their spatial databases. The handbook describes how positional accuracy can be measured and reported for databases that contain geographic features such as roads, rivers, and property lines. Five practical examples walk the reader through the process using databases developed at the Minnesota Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources; the city of Minneapolis; Washington Count; and The Lawrence Group, a private mapping firm.

The handbook, with practical examples and formatted spreadsheets calculating the accuracy statistics, can be downloaded in PDF and Excel formats from the committee's website ( A printed version of the handbook can be ordered through the website or by contacting the Land Management Information Center (LMIC) at Minnesota Planning, 658 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55155.

For more information, contact Christopher Cialek at LMI; phone 651-297-2488; fax 651-296-1212; or e-mail

Last Updated: Jan 27, 2006 06:01 PM
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