USGS re-evaluates Alaska programs
There is still much to be learned about the land, climate, geology and biology of the northernmost state Alaska.
June 30, 1999
Web posted at: 3:33 p.m. EDT (1933 GMT)
Because Alaska has received less human impact than any other state, the U.S. Geological Survey thinks it is wise to re-evaluate its programs and projects in the king salmon state. "Alaska is a land of great opportunity for scientific research," said Charles Groat, director of the U.S. Geological Survey.
There are 190 U.S. Geological Survey employees in Alaska who are involved in earth science research projects, water quality studies and digital mapping.
While visiting Alaska recently, Groat met with USGS program staff, federal agency
cooperators, state agency personnel, university administrators and private
sector organization representatives. "Nowhere in the United States are there
greater untapped renewable and nonrenewable resources and nowhere do we know
less about them," he noted.
"As pressure on these resources develop in the
future, it is essential that we take advantage of the opportunity to learn about
these complex systems and their interactions now. Global change poses dramatic
challenges to the Alaskan landscape and habitats. The biological resources of
the Bering Sea and Alaska's coastal areas need further research. Changes to
Arctic glaciers have profound global implications. Earthquake and volcano
hazards pose substantial risks for Anchorage and for international air travel."
Groat said that in spite of the fact that the USGS has been mapping and
conducting scientific field research in Alaska for more than a century, there is
still much to be learned about the land, climate, geology and biology of the
northernmost state. "Vast areas, including those in the national parks in
Alaska have not been geologically mapped, and many major streams are still
ungaged," Groat said.
To fill these informational gaps, Groat is re-evaluating the U.S. Geological Survey strategy and exploring ways to work in partnership with other federal, state and local agencies to achieve the goal of documenting the state's landscape and natural resources.
"The USGS presence and efforts in Alaska, while significant, are clearly not adequate to meet the growing needs of a frontier area that will see major growth as our need for resources increases and tourism continues to surge," said Groat. Funding has been a major reason that survey programs have not yet been expanded, he said. "There are many competing priorities in the lower 48 states."
"Re-evaluation doesn't guarantee program growth," Groat explains. "But
because of this history of cooperation between USGS and partner scientific
organizations, Alaska presents an ideal situation for further development of an
integrated science approach to understanding complex resources and environmental
systems. These factors, combined with the critical need for scientific
information to support far-reaching resources and environmental policy decisions
in Alaska, clearly merits a new look at our efforts there and an assessment of
the willingness of those who control the purse strings to support more work."
The end of the 1999 fiscal year will complete the first phase of the re-assessment. "Detailed planning will follow if the forecast for success in program growth is positive," Groat said.
"While the USGS presence and efforts in Alaska are significant, they are
clearly not adequate to meet the growing needs of an area that will see major
growth in tourism and resource development," Groat said.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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