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September 2007

National Parks Report Card

We surveyed more than 40 scientists, conservationists, and professional adventurers, then ranked the 15 parks that are most in peril from climate change.

Phased Out: Don’t expect updated national park topos to arrive in stores any time soon.

So your map is obsolete, and you want the new one? Sorry. The USGS stopped doing updates in the early 1990s. “The old ones were expensive because there were a lot of artistic components,” says Kari Craun, director of the USGS’s National Geospatial Technical Operations Center. “Updating those maps in that same style would be cost-prohibitive.” The good news: The agency is working on a prototype that combines elements of the old topos with high-resolution satellite imagery, like on Google Earth. Look for those models by late 2008.

The bad news? Maps will be updated according to federal criteria, not your need to walk in the woods. The Atlantic seaboard comes first, because of the urgent need for information during hurricane season. The worse news: Because of staff reductions, the USGS now relies heavily on state and county data, especially from transportation and zoning agencies. That means sparsely developed areas get low priority. Fortunately, the Forest Service maps 193 million acres of forest and grassland, and it’s among the most active surveyors out there.

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