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Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
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USGS Data Sources and Processing Instructions

Common Data Types & Standards
Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) | Digital Orthophoto Quads(DOQQs) | Digital Line Graphs(DLGs) | Digital Raster Graphics (DRGs) | Landsat Satellite Images | Land Use Land Cover (LULC) | Spatial Data Transfer Standard(SDTS)

Note: these tools and extensions are already loaded on computers in Branner Earth Sciences Library.

USGS Data Portals


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Importing Digital Line Graphs (DLGs) into ESRI GIS software


The following instructions apply to the Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) format. For the Optional Format, please click here.

Instructions for importing SDTS DLGs into ESRI's:

ArcGIS Arcview 3.x Workstation ArcInfo

Importing SDTS format DLGs into ArcGIS

In ArcToolbox, , select Import to Coverage > Import SDTS Wizard. The wizard steps you through the process, including relating the new layer to its associated data dictionary.

Importing SDTS format DLGs into ArcView 3.x 

Users in Branner Earth Sciences Library

1. Download and unzip 1:24,000, 1:100,000 or 1:2,000,000 DLGs in SDTS format from the EROS Data Center.
2. You may use the DLG2SHP Utility loaded on the GIS machines.
3. Directions for how to use this helpful utility may be found at the GIS Tools website.

Users outside Branner Earth Sciences Library

1. The U.S.G.S. has put together a helpful set of instructions for retrieving and unpacking SDTS format DLGs, including a description of the data dictionaries. You may view the document: sdts_tutorial. (It includes instructions for DEMs as well.)
2. For instructions on importing these DLGs into ESRI software, read the instructions from the US Fish & Wildlife. Their instructions utilize several free utilities, all of which are available at
3. Download SDTS2dlg.exe, dlgbld.exe, and dosxmsf.exe
These utilities convert a DLG in SDTS format into an Optional Format DLG. You should read our instructions for importing the newly created Optional DLG into ArcView.

Importing DLGs into Workstation ArcInfo     

1. The ARC command SDTSIMPORT produces coverages that have feature attributes residing in separate "normalized" tables, some of which contain "one to many" relationships.  Manual processing of these attribute tables can be very complicated for the novice ArcInfo user, so I recommend using the following AML available from the USGS
 2. Follow the instructions in the included readme file.   This AML simplifies the attribute structure by attaching all of the attributes from the attribute modules directly to the feature attribute tables. This is not as efficient, because many of the attributes get duplicated, but it makes accessing the attributes much easier.

Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS)


  • The USGS also provides a directory for public domain software used when working with SDTS. There you will find ESRI product utilities, DEM conversion tools, information for programmers, and a number of links to other resources.

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Land Use Land Cover (LULC)

The Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) data files describe the vegetation, water, natural surface, and cultural features on the land surface. The LULC mapping program is designed so that standard topographic maps of a scale of 1:250,000 can be used for compilation and organization of the land use and land cover data.

Datasets are available for download from:

Note: These LULC files haven't been updated recently, so you may want to explore other resources for land cover data, especially the new seamless National Land Cover Dataset Server.


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Last modified: July 26, 2006

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