Inland NDGPS continues; Geospatial organizations create formal coalition; and Canadian museum celebrates legacy of surveyor David Thompson.

Current DGPS coverage for the United States. U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center

Nationwide DGPS site locations in the United States. U.S.

Inland NDGPS Continues

In March, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the decision to continue the terrestrial component of the Nationwide Differential Global Positioning System (NDGPS), which provides a reliable, accurate and real-time GPS correction signal for mapping and navigating at the 1- to 2-meter level. “Land surveyors, particularly in the Midwest and upper Midwest states, rely on NDGPS for various sorts of mapping activities, such as environmental and infrastructure mapping,” said Eric Gakstatter, GPS consultant and contributing editor to GPS World magazine. “They also use the NDGPS reference stations for post-processing vis-à-vis OPUS and CORS.”

The decision is based on the results of an NDGPS user assessment that examined current and future user needs, systems requirements and several other factors to determine whether the inland component of the NDGPS system should be continued or decommissioned. The assessment was announced in the Federal Register (72 FR 42219) on August 1, 2007, and performed by the USDOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

The implementation of the inland component of NDGPS was authorized by the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1998. Using a robust medium-frequency broadcast optimized for surface applications, the NDGPS is intended to eventually provide coverage of the 48 conterminous states, Alaska and Hawaii, regardless of terrain or obstructions. NDGPS currently meets all of the Maritime Differential GPS (DGPS) performance requirements. Neither the assessment nor the decision to continue the inland component affects the Maritime DGPS. “The Coast Guard intended to continue Maritime DGPS no matter the outcome of the inland NDGPS assessment,” DOT officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard controls and monitors 38 operational NDGPS sites, which belong to the DOT.

Discussions regarding sources of funding for inland NDGPS are ongoing and will be addressed in future budget submissions. On March 20, the decision to continue the inland component of NDGPS was endorsed by the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing, an organization established by presidential directive to advise and coordinate federal departments and agencies on GPS-related matters and systems. More information on NDGPS is available at

Geospatial Organizations Create Formal Coalition

The creation of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) was announced in June. The partnership will provide a forum to promote openness and effective collaboration among organizations concerned with national geospatial issues. “It’s a very good step forward,” said Jim Plasker, executive director of COGO member organization ASPRS. “It is a step in the evolution of communication.”

The coalition is the result of several stakeholder meetings, which have occurred on an irregular basis since 2003, and the weathering of a federal lawsuit that Plasker said demonstrated the need for improved communication among geospatial organizations. In 2007, MAPPS, ASCE, NSPE and COFPAES joined in litigation against the federal government to force it to follow the qualifications-based selection (QBS) process outlined in the Brooks Act when procuring architectural and engineering services. “It just became an unnecessary distraction and almost a conflagration within the geospatial community,” Plasker said of the misinformation, misunderstanding and miscommunication that surrounded the court case. “We realized that if we weren’t going to find a way to work together, it was tantamount to having a ‘circular firing squad,’ and we recognized that wasn’t valuable or helpful to anybody. I believe that’s what transformed it from an ad hoc conversation to a formal initiative.”

The decision to create the formal coalition occurred in August 2007. Since then, COGO participants have met regularly to draft the COGO Rules of Operation and Procedure, which follow the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES) model. Under this model, COGO may undertake legal or advocacy action only through unanimous agreement of all the member organizations. “If consensus can be reached, then COGO can formally take a position forward, whether it’s to the agencies, to the Hill, to the community, to wherever,” Plasker said. “If no consensus can be reached, at least there will be a clear airing of the issues. If that had happened prior to the lawsuit, chances are there wouldn’t have been the misunderstandings that there were.”

COGO’s stated objectives include providing a framework for maintaining awareness and the coordination of policy positions relating to issues at the federal, state and local levels and developing programs that positively affect the interests of the member and advisory organizations such as legislation, agency policies and regulations, publications, a Web site, conferences and seminars.

Any organization meeting the qualifications set forth in the Rules of Operation and Procedure document is invited to join as either a member organization, which includes full voting membership, or an advisory organization, which has limited membership and no voting privileges.

Member organizations currently include: American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), Association of American Geographers (AAG), Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS), Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), GIS Certification Institute (GISCI), Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) and Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA). Current COGO advisory organizations include: National Association of Counties (NACo), National Emergency Number Association (NENA), Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and American Planning Association (APA).

The next meeting of the COGO member and advisory organizations is August 4, 2008, at the San Diego Convention Center. At this meeting, the Rules of Operation and Procedure document is expected to be finalized, and the organizations will determine if they will join the coalition.

“You can’t have one-hundred-percent agreement the first time you put something on the table,” Plasker said, “but the process should be beneficial, and if it allows the community to speak with one voice, we think that will be very positive.”

Additional information on COGO and the Rules of Operation and Procedure can be found

Drawing of David Thompson by Canadian artist C.W. Jefferys from “The Picture Gallery of Canadian History, Vol. 2.” Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1966 (9th printing).

Canadian Museum Celebrates Legacy of Surveyor David Thompson

This month, the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, opened “David Thompson: 200 Years Later,” an exhibition commemorating prominent surveyor, mapmaker, trader and naturalist David Thompson. “David Thompson made a large chunk of the northwest half of the continent into a mapped reality. It’s not entirely surveyed and mapped by him, but through his surveying, the production of his map of western North America and his narrative (memoirs), people will have a much better idea of the continent as a whole,” said Mary-Beth Laviolette, project manager for the exhibition. “Not only that, years later the Great Map, as it is commonly called, is found to be very accurate.”

Thompson, considered by many as the greatest North American land geographer of his time, explored and mapped about 1.5 million square miles of North America from 1784 to 1850. His legacy includes the creation of the first reliable map of the West, the positioning of many areas of the U.S.-Canada border and building pivotal relationships between Europeans and native peoples, according to the North American David Thompson Bicentennials Partnership Web site.

The museum’s exhibition is intended to explore how Thompson’s efforts shaped, defined and impacted the Northwest, its environment and the native peoples. The exhibit features interpretative panels; replicas of the traveling trunks, which fit in a canoe or on a horse’s back and contain reproductions of the tools, cooking utensils and other survival equipment used at that time; paintings; video; maps; and dramatic vignettes of Charlotte Small, Thompson’s Métis wife of 58 years, who often accompanied him on his exhibitions and who was the mother of his 13 children. A folding replica of the Great Map is also on display. The exhibit is open through April 2009 and is scheduled to travel to other museums and historic sites afterward.

The exhibition coincides with the 2007-2011 David Thompson Bicentennials, a heritage-awareness initiative series of events created by the bicentennials partnership. This partnership commemorates the character and accomplishments of David Thompson “as a means of examining our evolving collective relationship to place and history in North America over the past two hundred years.”

To learn more about the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre exhibit, go For information on David Thompson and the North American David Thompson Bicentennials Partnership, go

Associate Editor Wendy Lyons compiles “Newsline.” Contact her at 248/786-1620 or lyonsw@bnpmedia.