topo map 1 wetlands for development

Don’t MIRE your project in a Wetland!

By Stuart Jennings, M.A., PWS,
ASC Group Senior Ecologist.

Topographic maps connect the natural and the man-made environments like wetlands for development

The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) is a federal program that was established in 1879. Shortly thereafter, the task of systematic topographic mapping of the United States began. Maps were available for use by as early as 1894.

These early maps illustrated many of the same features we are familiar with today with regards to topographic maps. It wasn’t until 1942 that a more modern looking topographic map began to take shape.

Topographic maps, for over 130 years, are a trusted tool for geospatial information. These maps are indispensable tools for many industries, and typically serve as a first line of planning information on many development projects.

A unique feature of topographic maps are the interrelationships between the man-made environment, which is developed, and the natural environment.

Historically avoiding wetlands

Historically, the general population often envisioned wetlands as areas of blight, disease, and difficult farming. Rivers were thought to bring life giving waters to communities, but wetlands were thought to be useless. As such, they were typically avoided or drained.

In our first map example, development over time circumvents and avoids the areas of wetlands.

The advent of the 1972 CleanWater Act ushered in a new era of wetland avoidance by development. This new way of thinking may explain the information in our second map example. Publicly available data sources and aerial photography show these yellow outlined areas to have elevated hydrology and other wetland indicative characteristics.

Using topographic maps to navigate wetlands for development

USGS topographic maps are critical tools when properly employed and used in combination with other environmentally sensitive data sets. Proper interpretation of USGS topographic maps allows ASC Group to bring enhanced decision-making to our clients’ projects early in the process.

ASC Group’s staff of experienced cultural and wetland professionals work closely with our clients’ and their project teams to achieve the best coordinated solution to environmental needs. Our depth and understanding of cultural and ecological resources enables our data interpretation to better help your projects stay on time and keep away unnecessary surprises



Read more about wetlands for development in Early Wetland Detection.