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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was created on March 3, 1879, to ensure the “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain” (Organic Act, 1879). The impetus behind the creation of the USGS was federal concern about the classification and sale of federal lands, primarily those in the West. Surveying activity before the creation of the USGS was generally handled by private parties or the states, and such activities suffered from incompleteness, inconsistency, and even outright fraud. A second consideration behind the decision to increase federal involvement in survey activities was the recent discovery of gold and silver in the West and oil in Pennsylvania, which demonstrated the value of geological investigations into ...

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