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GIS Data Sources: USA

General US Federal Government

Key US Federal Agencies for GIS (A-F)

Agriculture Dept. (USDA)

Census Bureau

Crime (Department of Justice)

Education (Dept. of Education)

Energy Information Agency (EIA)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • EPA Geospatial Resources See also their Geospatial Download Service
  • eGRID (Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database): the PLNT (Plant) file includes longitude and latitude coordinates for nearly 10,000 generating plants in the US, as well as technical and emissions data for each.
  • Surf Your Watershed Data organized by watershed, mostly tabular data and narrative information

Federal Geographic Data Committee (FDGC)

  • FGDC "An interagency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis."
  • Geospatial Metadata Tools  Links to a number of metadata creation and editing tools.
  • Leads to data, software, and training resources.

Forest Service

Key US Federal Agencies for GIS (G-Z)

Geological Survey (USGS)

  • Geospatial Data Sources Outline of many sources for many different kinds of USGS geospatial data.
  • The National Map Small-Scale Collection
    Most of these layers are available fromn the download page as ArcView shapefiles (.shp) or as raster data (e.g., geoTIFF).  Attribute information is often available as dBase (.dbf) files. There is also some global data and links to Web Map Services (WMS) and Web Feature Services (WFS).
  • Energy Resources Program
    Information on all kinds energy, including the USGS Energy Data Finder.
  • U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) Download delimited text files of named features on USGS topographic maps.  Includes latitude/longitude coordinates sometimes up to 7 places past the decimal.
  • EROS Data Center From the USGS; portal to lots of remote sensing and digital map data
  • Earth Explorer From the USGS; map interface to remote sensing data
  • GLOVIS Global Visualization Viewer: another interface from the USGS; requires Java
  • Hydrologic Unit Boundaries from the USGS
    • Hydrologic unit coverages at the 8- and 12-digit level of detail.  Higher resolution than the layers from the National Map.
    • You can search for and get lots of information about particular watersheds (hydologic units) at the Surf Your Watershed web site, from the EPA
  • National Geospatial Programs Office (NGPO)
    This is the USGS office that coordinates its National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) initiatives, with links to information about digital formats and to digital data, such as The National Map.
  • Protected Areas Data (PAD-US)
    Lands in PAD-US are mainly open space/resource lands owned by agencies and non-profits (all federal and most state conservation lands, and many areas at regional and local scales), as well as conservation easements suitable for distribution in the public domain, with information on how they are being managed for conservation purposes.
  • Science Explorer: Mapping, Remote Sensing, and Geospatial Data
    Use topical categories to browse across all USGS websites for pages relating to the topics, including publications such as Open File Reports. A broad net approach.
  • WebGIS
    Elevation data, Digital Line Graphs (DLG), and land use (LULC) as vector layers
    • Land Use/Land Cover: Digitized from paper maps from 1970s-1980s, so should be used for historical studies.  Each 1:250,000 scale LULC quadrangle covers 2º of longitude E-W and 1º of latitude N-S.  WebGIS provides an index graphic that allows you to click on the counties or to choose from an alphabetical list.  It will then list all 1:100,000 quadrangles that cover at least part of that county.
    • You will need to  join a dBase file to the downloaded LULC layer's attribute table in order to match English words to the numeric LULC classification codes.  (Field LUCODE in the attribute table matches to LU2-CODE in the dBase file.)

Homeland Security (DHS)

Housing and Urban Development  (HUD)


  • See Crime, above

Land Management (Bureau of Land Management, BLM)

  • BLM Navigator Publication site for data from the Bureau of Land Management. GIS layers to download, such as shapefiles and KMZ layers, and GIS services to connect to.
  • States  Links to BLM state offices' pages

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

  • Earthdata Lots of remote sensing data as well as support materials such as software tools. Use the DAAC drop-down to go to NASA's Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), which are discipline-specific data archives.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

  • Data Resources: GIS data relating to renewable energy in the US (wind speeds, wave energy, solar potential). Some international data
  • Renewable Energy Data Explorer (REexplorer) Online mapping tool for visualizing energy-related map layers from selected non-US countries, most of which can be downloaded as GIS files.

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • National Ocean Service Data Explorer
    Provides "centralized access to distributed NOS geospatial data, tools, applications and services." Includes access to:
    • NOAA nautical charts, bathymetry, and shoreline data
    • coastal change and analysis data: remotely sensed imagery and aerial photography (LiDAR and IfSAR data)
    • Benthic habitat maps, National Marine Sanctuaries boundaries and protected areas data
    • environmental sensitivity index maps; geodetic control benchmarks
    • coastal and marine observational data including real time tides and currents data for marine navigation.
  • NOAA Digital Coast Large repository of data and tools relating to coastal science and contributed by many partners.  Includes over 2500 data layers that relate to Lidar, land cover, economic data (continental shelf, EEZ, etc.), electronic navigational charts, imagery, and much more.  Includes over 70 tools to view or analyze such data. Includes some non-US data.
  • NOAA GIS Tools & Assessments GIS tools and some data relating to coastal and marine studies.

Transportation (Dept. of Transporation)