NB_170_21_1 - NB 170-21-1 CGI – High-Resolution Elevation (IFSAR & LiDAR) Acquisition
NB 170-21-1 CGI – High-Resolution Elevation (IFSAR & LiDAR) Acquisition
National Bulletin: 170-21-1 Date: June 30, 2021
Subject: CGI – High-Resolution Elevation (IFSAR & LiDAR) Acquisition

Action Required By:  July 15, 2021
Purpose.  To provide guidance for acquisition of high-resolution elevation data (LiDAR and IFSAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2021, and to continue a nationally coordinated data management strategy to ensure quality of product, avoid duplication, and work toward a seamless, national elevation data set. 
Expiration Date.  December 31, 2021

Background.  The Long-Term Centralized LiDAR Investment Strategy was approved in 2018. It provides an efficient and cost-effective approach to the LiDAR acquisition process for NRCS. It will also provide funding to centrally store and distribute elevation data in enterprise geospatial web services, making the data accessible to the entire agency. NRCS State offices will follow the centralized strategy and submit their prioritized requirements in the form of a multi-year plan to sequence projects by priority. Requests for central acquisition funding should include requirements listed in the explanation section.

New elevation data is needed to support critical agency analysis for efforts such as highly erodible land (HEL) and wetland conservation and replaces the legacy topographic maps and datasets that are out of date and do not have the quality or resolution to support conservation planning and design. Some areas have no elevation data suitable for business requirements. There is a government-wide goal of completing the Nation in 8-10 years. Some areas with farmers and ranchers of color and/or underserved communities such as Tribal and ethnic communities lack updated elevation data cover. Currently, LiDAR data is being utilized extensively in agricultural, forestry settings, and other resource assessment applications. The data provides land use managers with accurate topographic data to plan, design, and implement conservation practices. LiDAR quality level 2 (QL2) data is currently available for over one third of agricultural land in the United States.

LiDAR is extremely useful in the completion of HEL and wetland conservation technical determinations. The NRCS HEL Tool, released in September 2019, can utilize LiDAR data to determine the HEL status of potentially highly erodible soil map units without the need for field evaluation. LiDAR is also valuable in identifying water receiving landscape positions when completing certified wetland determinations, as part of preliminary data gathering and synthesis for on-site determinations or when using off-site methods.

Much of the data acquisition has come from leveraging other Federal, State, and local funding in the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) partnership managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). NRCS has been a major supporter of 3DEP and the broad agency announcement (BAA) acquisition process to leverage investments with partners and optimize investments. The USGS BAA is a matching grant program which accepts applications annually, using funds from USGS, FEMA, NRCS, and USFS. The 3DEP goal is to acquire, manage, and distribute 3D elevation data for the Nation and U.S. territories. Acquiring data through a unified approach significantly benefits Federal partners and the Nation’s taxpayers in multiple ways.

The 3DEP is a cooperative program that meets the needs of a broad range of stakeholders and depends on shared contributions through Federal, State, Tribal, and private-sector partnerships. NRCS is a committed partner in the 3DEP effort. NRCS utilizes 3D elevation data to support multiple business areas including watershed, soils, geology, wetlands, vegetation management, easements, restoration, engineering, mapping, and other programs.

The Geospatial Enterprise Office (GEO) in FPAC Business Center Information Services Division participates in 3DEP on NRCS’ behalf and will implement an efficient acquisition and data management system to create a seamless, national elevation dataset. 


Explanation.  To achieve the desired goals and benefits of the national data management strategy, State conservationists, division directors, and center directors or designees will coordinate LiDAR acquisitions through GEO (FBC-ISD-Geospatial Enterprise Operations Branch) and are encouraged to use the USGS Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC) for their LiDAR requirements. States and divisions are also encouraged to utilize a new 5-year interagency agreement between NRCS and USGS. Alternative plans should be shared with the Regional Conservationists and the national elevation leader.

The process for nationally coordinated LiDAR and IFSAR acquisition and data management in FY 2021 and the next few years are as follows:

• By July 15, 2021, provide geographic areas of interest and anticipated funding sources. See https://arcg.is/1j4W1L for format and instructions on how to upload new areas of interest. In addition, report all projects you would like to acquire over the next few years regardless of State funds and list available State FY 2021 funds you have to acquire the data in the “ProjectedStateLiDARFunding2021” spreadsheet located on SharePoint linked on that website in the Description section.

• States should obtain approval from their Regional Conservationist in concurrence with their State Conservationist following the below process. No later than July 15, 2021, States will return funds for fall 2021 and spring 2022 acquisition using the Allotment Planning & Management (APM) tool in FMMI. Staff should add “FY21 LiDAR Acquisition” in the comment section.

• Process steps:

   • State FRS or POC initiates review to Regional Conservationist and State Conservationist.
   • Regional and State Conservationist review and confirm investments with State POC, then approve or reject.
   • If approved State FRS or POC initiates funds transfer, returning funds via a request in APM and include the following verbiage “FY2021 LiDAR Acquisition.”
Management & Strategy will verify funds available and execute transfer in coordination with Budget Execution.
   • State FRS or POC notifies National Elevation Leader of WBS code and amount.
   • National Elevation Leader updates “ProjectedStateLiDARFunding2021” on SharePoint.

 • If requesting central funding (which may not be available this year), provide the following information via email:

   • Indicate if there are high-workload areas in the area of interest.
   • Indicate whether there is a significant presence of farmers and ranchers of color and/or underserved communities such as Tribal and ethnic communities.
   • The status of existing elevation data in the requested area: no LiDAR, inadequate quality LiDAR, outdated LiDAR approaching 8 years old.
   • A list of current or potential partners and the status of collaboration or participation in State LiDAR plans.
   • Estimated amount of funding requested.

• All elevation task orders should request a copy of the data to be sent to the State Office and the FBC-ISD-GEO for support of building a national map and making data available in enterprise applications such as CD.

Requests to transfer funds received after July 15, 2021, will be reviewed in consultation with the Office of Regional Conservationists for consideration pending status of Grants and Agreements processes.

GEO is available to assist States with questions related to contract specifications and contracting opportunities, such as partnering with USGS and leveraging potential funds through the 3DEP partnership. Minimum specification for acquiring high resolution elevation data for new uncovered areas of interest must meet 3DEP QL2.     

Contact.  For further information and access to online portal for data submittals, please contact Collin McCormick, Elevation Program Manager, FBC-ISD-GEO, at Collin.mccormick@usda.gov or 817-228-8923.


Deputy Chief Soil Science and Resource Assessment

ASTOR BOOZER                                     SALVADOR SALINAS
Regional Conservationist – West              Regional Conservationist – Central

TERRELL ERICKSON                               JAMES TILLMAN, SR
Regional Conservationist – Northeast      Regional Conservationist – Southeast

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