Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne made the following comments today concerning a report issued by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, calling for a new management structure to coordinate a space-based land imaging program.

“We understand and acknowledge the need for a long-term plan to develop technical, financial, and managerial stability for the U.S. National Land Imaging Program,” Kempthorne said. “We look forward to working with the Congress, other federal agencies and private-sector partners to ensure the United States maintains its civil land imaging capabilities and can meet the nation’s future needs for this vital information.”

“Population growth, resource development, natural disasters and climate change are having significant impacts on the Earth’s surface,” Kempthorne noted. “The use of remote sensing satellites to monitor these developments more effectively and sustainably will play a critical role in shaping our national as well as international response plans.”

The report, entitled A Plan for a U.S. National Land Imaging Program, provides a new framework for continuing the long term collection of photographic, infrared and other multispectral remote sensing data for the globe. The report recommends an interagency council to oversee the effort and a program office at the Interior Department to provide focused leadership and management for the nation’s civil land imaging efforts.

Since 1972, U.S. Landsat satellites have provided millions of moderate resolution images of the planet’s surface. Responsibility for developing, launching, and managing the satellites has historically moved among agencies. The National Land Imaging Program will ensure a consistent planning process for future imaging missions, the report states. Land imaging data serve government, commercial, industrial, civilian, military, and educational communities in the United States and worldwide.

Interior is the nation’s principal conservation agency, managing 500 million acres of public land — one out of every five acres in the United States. The department’s U.S. Geological Survey, the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, operates Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 and provides the portal to the largest archive of remotely sensed land data in the world. A Plan for a U.S. National Land Imaging Program is online at http://ostp.gov/.