February 13, 1996 FGDC Coordination Meeting Summary


Bob Ader (Cadastral); Bruce Ambacher (Historical); Gerry Barton, (NOAA); Andy Battin (EPA); Fred Broome, Leslie Godwin (Cultural and Demographic); Craig Faanes (Wetlands); Gary Fitzpatrick (LOC); Richard Hogan (Standards); Fred Kaiser (Vegetation); Millington Lockwood (Bathymetric); Jim Plasker, Kathy Wortman (Base Cartographic); Charles Roswell, Paul Nagele, Penny Capps, Ed Riegelmann (Defense); Joel Segal (HUD); Bruce Spear (Ground Transportation); John Spencer (Geodetic); John Stewart (DOE); Gale TeSelle (Soils); Brad Thomas (International Boundaries); Alan Voss (TVA - by teleconference); Nancy Tosta, John Moeller, Mickey Kilpatrick (FGDC). Guests: Mike Culp, FHWA, and Sanjay Jeer and Bill Kline, American Planning Association.

Information Items

The report of the January 23 Coordination Group meeting was approved. Review of action items indicated two were not yet complete: (1) submit names of CCAP proposal reviewers to Bruce McKenzie by February 16, and (2) provide comments on the Clearinghouse guidelines to Doug Nebert by February 20. (Note: Names of additional CCAP reviewers, to be called upon if needed, may be submitted until the proposal deadline -- March 29.)

FGDC Steering Committee Meeting--February 21: Ms. Tosta noted that presentations planned for the February 21 FGDC Steering Committee meeting are intended to highlight cooperative data sharing projects being carried out by Federal agencies in partnership with States and other entities, with a focus on success factors. Projects have been suggested by Agriculture, COE, Commerce, EPA, FEMA, and Interior.

Ms. Tosta noted that an additional agenda topic at the February 21 meeting will be a letter received from the Bureau of the Census requesting FGDC assistance in building data bases that would meet more than just Census 2000 needs. The BOC mandate is to do a census, not to build an accurate spatial data base. Experience with the 1990 Census TIGER data suggests that Federal agencies and others would benefit from enhanced spatial accuracy in the Census 2000 data. BOC would like the FGDC to consider collectively supporting an effort to build a data base that will meet broader user requirements. Ms. Tosta suggested that Coordination Group members discuss the proposal with their Steering Committee representatives before the February 21 meeting.

Mr. Plasker stated that the approach put forth in the letter seemed to be in conflict with the concept of Framework that the FGDC had spent considerable effort developing. Mr. Spear asked how the letter reflects the USGS/Census joint program. Ms. Wortman responded that that issue would be discussed. Mr. Broome commented that BOC is committed to the framework, but because of the number of agencies involved in the framework effort, there is a distinct possibility that framework data will not be available nationally in time for the Census 2000. There are also technical problems in exchanging the data. Significant amounts of data collected by State and local organizations could be used to improve the TIGER data, if resources were available for the effort. Mr. Broome further stated that the proposal in the letter would provide for a complementary effort, and would not conflict with ongoing programs. Mr. Plasker noted that this approach might be appropriate as part of a phased implementation of framework; however, in addition to technical exchange problems, there are issues related to the incentives for local organizations to supply their data unless they gain something in return. Ms. Tosta noted that the BOC proposal merited further discussion; there may be potential for developing a valuable data set for broader applications, or we may find the issue is too complicated to resolve in the short term.

Discussion Items:

Land Use/Land Cover/Land Characterization Issues

Mr. Kline and Mr. Jeer, American Planning Association (APA), were guests at the Coordination Group meeting. Mr. Kline presented an overview of the American Planning Association and a proposal for FGDC consideration. The APA is a national nonprofit organization composed of 29,000 government planners and private planning consultants. About two years ago, the APA was asked to do a study for the Department of Transportation on the feasibility of updating the Standard Land Use Coding Manual that was derived by Federal agencies in the 1960's. Results of the study indicated substantial interest in a cooperative project to establish a land based coding classification system that would include land use, land cover, and land rights (ownership, easements, zoning, etc.) data now being collected and stored at all levels and in many different formats.

The APA has developed a proposal for a project that is expected to take 3 years and cost $600K. Commitments for funding from several Federal agencies and the APA currently total $425K. The APA plans to establish full funding before beginning the project.

Two products are planned as outcomes of the project: a standards manual available in printed form and online, and a clearinghouse data base that would serve as a repository for data that are expected to change over time. Expected customers/audience would be city, county, regional, and national planners, county assessors, transportation planners, Federal and State environmental managers, emergency management officials, and private consultants who use land cover, land use, and land rights information as part of their planning process.

Coordination Group members raised concerns about several aspects of the proposed project

    Spatial extent and referencing systems, basic land units, aggregation to a national level. (Mr. Jeer noted that the intention was to be able to aggregate to a national level of 100%, but basic land unit will first have to be defined.)
    Inclusion of both surface and subsurface rights. (Mr. Kline stated that this would be somewhat dependent on the sponsoring agencies needs, but that current technology would offer the potential for including data on subsurface rights.)
    Scope seems quite broad and seems to cover areas of FGDC subcommittee concerns in land cover/vegetation activities. (Mr. Jeer stated that the scope of the project would depend on the funding agencies requirements. Mr. Kline noted that subcommittee work would not be duplicated, but would be used as a foundation on which to build.)
    Building consensus on land use definitions may be difficult. (Mr. Kline noted that this would involve extensive dialog; a facilitator is sometimes used.)
    Resources required by State and local agencies to adopt a coding manual may preclude their participation. (Mr. Kline noted that technology advances, ability to aggregate data and see where these groups fit in, and value added to their data will be motivating factors.)
    Agencies with coastal zone concerns do not appear to be among the planned participants; the lands under their jurisdictions need to be included in classification definitions. (Mr. Kline noted that FEMA was interested; Mr. Jeer commented that coastal lands would not be ignored.)
    Cadastral standards have been through a rigorous national review process and are nearing completion. Would something different be developed through the APA process? (Mr. Jeer noted that the standards would not be changed, but aggregation and integration of data would be accommodated. There could be a Federal domain of values and possibly other domains of values.)

Mr. Kline stated that a primary purpose of APA's presentation to the Coordination Group is to ensure that APA's efforts are compatible with FGDC coordination efforts already underway. Ms. Tosta commented that our extensive standards development and review process allows standards submission by outside groups. Mr. Lockwood noted that many FGDC agencies are mandated by legislation to do things in a prescribed way; it may be difficult to change. Mr. Jeer stated that APA has opportunities to promote standards to State and local organizations for regional planning purposes. Mr. Stewart suggested that the effort be first with Federal agencies and then be extended to State and local organizations. Mr. Kline responded that the level of detail was considerably greater at the local level; the APA approach was to start with greater granularity and aggregate upward. Mr. Spencer noted that we already have cadastral standards and vegetation standards. Ms. Tosta commented that land use data might be all that should be included in the project.

Mr. TeSelle stated that affiliation with a group such as APA would be beneficial to the FGDC because of the sensitivity of land use and land rights issues and APA's connection to the local communities that have responsibilities in these areas. He further stated that the issue of land unit or parcel would require interaction at all levels; there may be cases where large parcels need criteria to subdivide depending on the geographic resolution. Mr. Voss commented that working with APA would provide a better tie to State and local organizations; he would like to see an objective of the study be an FGDC standard.

Ms. Tosta noted that discussion of FGDC support for the APA proposal would be held at the next Coordination Group meeting.

Land Cover Data Initiative

Mr. Moeller presented an issue statement and raised the question of FGDC leadership in coordination of Federal land cover activities. He summarized the recommendations of the DOI Science Board Working Group and noted that Secretary Babbitt supported the incorporation of land cover issues into FGDC activities to be part of the larger Federal interagency coordination effort. Mr. Moeller also reported the options developed by the Vegetation Subcommittee that would provide this coordination either by (1) broadening the scope of the Vegetation Subcommittee and renaming it the Land Cover Subcommittee, or (2) establishing a Land Cover/Earth Cover Working Group.

The two main facets of the proposed land cover activity are coordination and crosswalking of existing classification systems, and development of the mechanisms needed to coordinate the various land cover/earth cover activities being carried out by various Federal agencies.

Mr. Kaiser noted that the vegetation standard is well underway, and as it has progressed the Vegetation Subcommittee has found itself becoming involved in discussions of boulders, sparse vegetation, icefields, and other terms related to land cover. There are some systems that classify these features ( an NRCS system and a Coastwatch Program), and there is some commonality, but it would be desirable to bring these under FGDC for further development. Mr. Segal asked for clarification of land cover--does it include both natural and manmade features? Mr. Moeller stated that in a comprehensive classification system, both natural and manmade features will be included.

Mr. Lockwood noted that the objectives in the handout call for a "national land cover synthesis" map; he also commented that such a product would be very useful. Ms. Tosta stated that during a recent discussion on this subject, FGDC Steering Committee members voiced reservations about stepping into agency program areas.

Mr. Spear questioned the identification of a single land cover for areas that might fit into more than one category (e.g., wetlands over some form of vegetation). Mr. Kaiser responded that discussions to date indicate that this approach would be used. Mr. TeSelle commented that Federal agencies commonly do this; take a snapshot or an aerial view of a surface and assign a value. Mr. TeSelle noted that NRCS made these determinations in the Natural Resources Inventory; Mr. Moeller commented that Interior bureaus also made these assignments of land cover types and that there was not a standard approach among bureaus. Mr. TeSelle noted that initial classifications may later be subdivided and further defined. A decision to assign a single type will cause debates as to where the boundaries are, what classification definitions were used, and how they were drawn to add up to 100 percent, but that is the dialog we want. When the A-16 categories were originally identified, not much concern was given to the spatial components and how land cover might be subdivided.

Ms. Tosta observed that the FGDC normally uses the working group approach to deal with issues that crosscut many data themes. After a brief discussion, the Coordination Group reached a consensus that formation of a working group would be the most appropriate mechanism to begin the coordination effort.


    The Coordination Group approved the proposal that the FGDC adopt the Land Cover Data Initiative and develop a mechanism for the coordination of land cover data/mapping. A working group will be formed to carry out this effort; leadership will be determined at the first meeting of the group. Representation is expected from all subcommittees, working groups, and agencies that have interests in land cover.


    Subcommittee and working group chairs and agency representatives are requested to submit names for membership on the working group by February 29 to John Moeller (phone 703-648-5752; fax 703-648-5755; internet jmoeller@usgs.gov).

Standards Working Group

Mr. Hogan noted that the SWG plans to use Internet discussion groups for standards issues to better enable full discussion of issues without the limitation of half day monthly meetings.

Standards Reference Model: Mr. Hogan reported that the Standards Reference Model has not yet been distributed because of additional changes needed following the SWG meeting on January 24. The reference model is designed to be a guidance document at several levels. The SWG is considering how APA-type activities might be accommodated by strengthening the project proposal procedures; formalizing this process would also provide a means to identify potentially duplicative projects proposed for areas where standards already exist. The revised Standards Reference Model will be available soon.

Contractor report on subcommittee interfaces: The contractor's draft report on overlaps and gaps in standards activities was mailed to subcommittees and the Coordination Group in October, with a comment period that ended December 12. Mr. Hogan noted that comments received were considered in revising the report, however, there are deficiencies in the final report. (Discussion subsequent to the Coordination Group meeting resulted in a decision that the report would not be published, but that the extensive useful information gained from the study would lay the groundwork for future standards activities.)


    Coordination Group members are asked to review the report and submit any errors in facts to Denise Perreca (phone 703-648-4573; fax 703-648-5755; or Internet dperreca@usgs.gov) by March 5.


    A meeting to discuss the recommendations in the report was scheduled twice and canceled due to furloughs. If there is enough interest in such a discussion, another meeting will be scheduled. Some of the recommendations that involved overlapping activities also pertain to the organizational structure of the subcommittees and working groups. No action that affects the organizational structure will be taken by the SWG, but will be referred back to the Coordination Group. (NOTE: An open meeting of the SWG has been scheduled on the afternoon of April 9 to discuss the recommendations in the report. The meeting is open to anyone interested, but please notify Denise Perreca at 703-648-4573 if you plan to attend.)

Metadata Standard

Mr. Barton asked for information on current metadata standard activities, and specifically on exchange formats. Mr. Hogan noted that the SWG was working with the FGDC Secretariat's metadata person, Mr. Tolar, to determine what changes might be needed to the metadata standard, which deals only with content. When there is adequate information about what changes are needed, a project proposal will be drawn up and submitted to the SWG for processing. Ms. Tosta noted that a contract effort (Mitre Corp.) is focusing on metadata tools evaluation and on identifying the characteristics of the format that would optimize the ability to access and search data through the Internet. Mr. Hogan commented that the fact that the standard did not specify implementation methods was both a strength and a weakness of the Metadata Standard, and in some ways aided its acceptance.

Mr. Hogan further commented that there are two potential approaches--to revise the content of the Metadata Standard itself or to provide specific implementation guidelines.

Mr. Lockwood suggested that Mr. Tolar attend the next Coordination Group meeting and present a status report on metadata activities. Ms. Tosta agreed this would be appropriate and would be arranged.

Subcommittee Charters

Two of the subcommittee chairs summarized how review comments had been resolved and incorporated into their revised charters.

Cultural and Demographic Data: Mr. Broome noted that the list of authorities had been moved to the appendix, except for those of the lead agency. There was confusion about the wording of the section on membership and who had the authority to accept or approve new members. Coordination Group members agreed that this paragraph should have the same language for all the exhibits, and that the authority should rest with the subcommittee chair.

Mr. Plasker suggested that the Exhibit template membership paragraph be revised accordingly, and provided to each subcommittee chair to incorporate during its next charter revision.

Mr. Broome further noted that SCDD felt it necessary for clarity to provide examples of geospatial cultural and demographic data as shown in the page 1 footnote, and preferred not to delete that information as suggested in a review comment. Ms. Tosta asked about a statement that was to have been included to the effect that subcommittees with theme responsibilities would deal more in depth with certain data. Mr. Broome indicated that statement would be added.

Ground Transportation

Mr. Spear stated that one reviewer suggested that "transportation" be replaced by "transportation networks" throughout the charter; however, DOT does not yet wish to relinquish coordination responsibilities for everything but transportation "networks." This issue might be revisited after the Facilities Working Group completes their definition of "facility." Mr. Spear noted that references to DOT data bases will be updated to refer to NSDI. Discussion of a suggested change from the title "Ground Transportation" to "Transportation" with a supplementary explanation of scope resulted in a consensus that there is a need to add a section on scope to the Exhibit template. Mr. Spear will incorporate this statement under the new section on scope to be added to the template.


There were no major changes to the Cadastral charter; discussion will be postponed until the template has been revised.


    The Secretariat will add a section on scope in the body of the exhibit, and will modify the membership section to allow agencies to designate membership on subcommittees directly to the subcommittee chair. Coordination Group members may suggest other changes.


    Coordination Group members are asked to fax any suggestions for changes to the exhibit template to Mickey Kilpatrick (Fax 703-648-5755) by February 21.


    FGDC Secretariat will provide revised new template to subcommittee chairs to be used in preparing their exhibits at time of next revision. Hardcopy and softcopy of the template will be available.


    Subcommittee chairs with exhibits currently being revised will resubmit proposed charters using the new template by March 8. (Note: this action has been postponed pending discussion of other proposed changes to the Exhibit template to be held at the March 12 Coordination Group meeting.)

Discussion of the charters for the Bathymetric and Cadastral Subcommittees will be held after revision of Exhibit template.

Facilities Working Group

Ms. Capps noted that the FWG had been in existence for a year, and that there was adequate participation and interest to change the ad hoc status of the group to that of a standing committee. The FWG provided a current version of their objectives and work plan. The Coordination Group concurred with the removal of the ad hoc designation.

State Council Requests

Ms. Tosta noted that the Secretariat staff has reviewed Utah and California's requests for recognition and their efforts to support NSDI and begin coordination of geospatial data in their respective States; the Secretariat staff recommends that both councils be recognized as FGDC cooperating partners. The Coordination Group approved recognition of Utah and California as cooperating partners.

Progress Report

The draft progress report, "Building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure," contains information provided in response to several requests at different times. Ms. Covert of the Secretariat staff has extracted from these materials all that seemed to be pertinent; however, if there content omissions, please let her know.


    Coordination Group members are requested to submit comments on the report to Kathy covert (phone 703-648-4144; fax 703-648-5755; Internet kcovert@usgs.gov) by March 5