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I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that you didn't know that today is "Map Celebration Day" in Utah. Well, it is, and don't say you couldn't care less because it's important.

Besides, if you go down to the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth Science Information Center at 125 S. State today through Friday they will give you a free map . . . with a purchase of equal or greater value.OK, OK, so it's not exactly like winning the Publisher's Sweepstakes, but when's the last time you got something free from the federal government?

Anyway, Gov. Bangerter has proclaimed Dec. 6 Map Celebration Day in honor of the USGS's completion of initial topographic mapping of the state. USGS Director Dallas Peck said the Survey has completed 1,524 topographic map sheets of Utah, a massive project and one that Peck said would not have been possible without the "excellent cooperation" of the state.

Peck said such detailed, accurate, up-to-date maps are essential tools for planning and managing Utah's natural resources and noted that the maps mark a new era in cartography that goes beyond traditional techniques of field surveying and manual photogrammetry.

In their place has come digital cartography, described by Peck as "a technological revolution."

The 1:24,000-scale topographic maps show the shape and elevation of the terrain and many natural and man-made features. Peck said they are the base maps for all mapping products produced by the state and serve as basic tools for engineers, scientists and administrators of resource and environmental projects.

They are also popular with hikers, campers and hunters.

The state has contributed about $1 million through joint funding agreements with the USGS for other graphic and digital products. These cooperative programs between the USGS and the state include:

- Design of a regional geographic information system in support of the Wasatch Earthquake Hazards Assessment Program.

- Development of satellite image maps of the Great Salt Lake and Newfoundland Evaporation Basin.

- Production of a base map of the state at a scale of 1:500,000. When it was completed, the state, the USGS and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management shared the cost of converting it into a computerized digital base map of Utah. This was the first digital base map of any state produced through a cost-share program.

Peck said topographic map coverage of Utah required 1,524 separate map sheets at a scale of 1:24,000 (one inch on a map represents 2,000 feet on the ground), the most detailed map series published by the USGS. For Utah, each of these maps depicts about 54 square miles, depending on latitude, and covers 7.5 minutes of latitude by 7.5 minutes of longitude.

Mapping of Utah began in 1874 under the direction of John Wesley Powell, a pioneer in mapping the United States and the second director of the USGS.

Several Utah state agencies participated in the mapping program for Utah, including the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey, the Automated Geographic Reference Office, the Division of Water Resources, the Comprehensive Emergency Management Office and the Department of Transportation.