Geologic Mapping

current mappingThe Idaho Geological Survey is the lead agency for collecting and disseminating geologic information and mineral data in the state. It has offices in Moscow, Boise, and Pocatello. Staff geologists conduct applied research with a strong emphasis on producing geologic maps and providing technical and general information on the State’s various geologic settings, earth resources, and geologic hazards. Much of the research is conducted through cooperative programs with federal agencies and applies to the growing development and use of land and water in Idaho.

Geologic Maps and Mapping

Geologic maps constitute a fundamental and objective scientific foundation on which land-use, water-use, and resource-use decisions are based. A geologic map records the distribution of rock and soil materials at and near the land surface, and is the best science product to display the information that decision makers need to identify and protect valuable resources, avoid risks from natural hazards, and make wise use of our land.

Field research is an essential part of geologic mapping.Geologic mapping is a scientific process that can produce a range of map products for many different uses, including assessing ground-water quality and contamination risks; predicting earthquake, volcano, and landslide hazards; characterizing energy and mineral resources and their extraction costs; waste repository siting; land management and land-use planning; and general education. Geographic information system (GIS) technology has changed geologic maps by providing software tools that permit geology and other geologic features to be electronically stored, displayed, queried, and analyzed in conjunction with a variety of other data types. GIS greatly facilitates the analysis and, as a result, offers geologists the opportunity to provide information in an electronic map form that is easily interpreted and used by the non-geologist and provide a database from which many types of geologic and engineering geology maps can be derived.

The Idaho Geological Survey strongly supports and is a participant in the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). The goal of the NCGMP is to provide accurate geologic maps and three-dimensional framework models that help to sustain and improve the quality of life and economic vitality of the Nation and to mitigate natural hazards. For more than a decade, the Idaho Survey has partnered with the STATEMAP component of the NCGMP to deliver digital geologic maps to Idaho users. The Idaho Survey urges Federal, State and local agencies to incorporate the use of geologic maps in their activities and, as appropriate, to help fund the production of geologic maps.

Applications of Geologic Maps

Portion of geologic map of the White Bird quadrangle, Idaho CountyGeologic maps portray a three-dimensional view of the rock, sediment, and soil units arranged by their age. They provide information on the structure of the Earth and other features at and below the Earth’s surface and offer baseline data for petroleum, coal, and industrial and metallic mineral resources. Our understanding of issues important to society, such as natural hazards, water resources, and soil conservation, is also grounded in geologic maps. The preparation of geologic maps is a fundamental skill that is unique to the science of geology. Geologic maps and their subsequent derivative products have immense economic and societal value. They support our ability to locate and develop mineral and water resources, to assess and protect groundwater quality, to safely site solid and hazardous waste disposal facilities, and to identify and prepare for such natural hazards as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and land subsidence. Geologic maps enhance our ability to identify health hazards; to site and build the State’s infrastructure of roads and highways, railroads, pipelines, utilities, dams and locks, buildings, and foundations; and to make more informed land-use and planning decisions to meet societal needs. Geologic maps have proven to be an essential ingredient for informed policy decisions. Rarely will a local agency or a company have the responsibility or resources to fully map an area the size of a county, for example, or fully understand the geologic framework upon which local applications are built. It falls upon state and federal government to assume the responsibility of providing the geologic framework upon which local applications are built.