BOX 3.1
Existing National Atlas of the United States

The USGS has been publishing National Atlas products since 1970 (see <>). Intended for use at national or large regional scales, most of the map layers in the National Atlas are compiled at a scale of 1:2 million and cover the full geographic extent of the United States (although some cover the conterminous United States only). Many federal agencies supply data to the National Atlas, and linkages are provided to agency sources where their information is portrayed.

The National Atlas includes the following data services:

Make Maps, Online Interactive Maps. Available since 1998.

Multimedia Maps. Multimedia technologies are used to supplement and enhance cartographic information products; to tell narrative stories; to deliver interactive maps; to develop maps that show change over time; and to facilitate the visual presentation and understanding of complex geographic phenomena and relationships.

Map Services. Over 500 integrated map layers are accessible as two types of Web mapping services. First, Open GIS Consortium-compliant Web mapping services are offered so that developers can embed the National Atlas in their applications, and second, the National Atlas publishes map services through ESRI’s (Environmental Systems Research Institute) Geography Network.

Printed Maps. High-quality paper maps depicting a variety of national conditions.

Printable Maps. Page-size (8.5 by 11 inch) maps designed for printing and reproduction.

Spatial Databases. A variety of information and statistics with a spatial component from federal partners.

Metadata. Metadata files include information describing the contents of each map layer, such as how it was made, its lineage, and its quality.

Scientific and Expository Articles. Cartographic products are supplemented with narratives.

In addition to the National Atlas site several other federal agencies offer similar data or even the same data with different data delivery engines and services. For example demographic information can be viewed, queried, and used to build custom maps on the U.S. Bureau of the Census website and the Bureau of Land Management’s Geocommunicator offers a perspective on federal ownership.

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