Reorganization on the Horizon for the Colorado Geologic Survey?

Title: Reorganization on the Horizon for the Colorado Geologic Survey?
Author: Donna Anderson
Publication: The Outcrop, October 2003, p. 1, 6

Should the Colorado Geologic Survey (CGS) move to the Colorado School of Mines (CSM)? Earlier this year, Representative Ramey Johnson, (R) House District 23, announced plans to introduce a bill in the next Colorado legislative session to authorize such a move. With the recent departure of State Geologist Vicki Cowart, Representative Johnson felt that, “it seemed like the ideal time to push the Survey in a new direction. It has been doing a credible job in its current situation, but I feel a move to the Colorado School of Mines would give the Survey more resources, financially and professionally. I asked myself, ‘Are the citizens best served [with the Survey] at its present location or at an academic institution?’ I believe it is in the best interest of Colorado to have the Survey moved to Mines, and that Mines is the only academic choice.” According to Johnson, more than eleven other states have their surveys attached to an academic institution.

Why CSM? Rep. Johnson cites the school’s international reputation for geologic programs, its excellent geologic library, relative proximity to the USGS, and the availability of students who could be utilized for various projects. Additionally, she stated, “…Survey employees could receive reduced tuition fees at Mines, lower-priced parking and access to numerous recreational resources. Other potential benefits could be that under the Mines umbrella, and the possibility of additional grant money, the Survey might have a more stable budget than as a state agency.” Rep. Johnson cited Colorado’s water shortage as an example of how the Survey might tap into grant money. Possibly, funding for the feasibility study for the Big Straw project would more likely go to the Survey if it were based in an academic institution.

Representative Johnson’s vision is that CSM and the CGS would be somewhat autonomous. According to Rep. Johnson, the mission of the Survey would remain the same, yet the Survey might attain a more efficient use of professional resources. Many questions remain unanswered, and details need to be worked out. Input from professional geoscientists is being sought.

The CGS has experienced ups and downs since its inception in 1907. It was eased out of existence in 1925 due to lack of funds and numerous conflicts with the Colorado Metal Mining Fund Board. In 1965, the legislature re-created the Survey as an office reporting directly to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), at the urging of the geologic community. Increasingly through the 1980s, budget problems forced the Survey to seek funding through grants and contracts. In 1992, reorganization within the DNR moved the CGS to an office within the regulatory-focused Department of Mines and Geology. A bill introduced in 2001 to re-establish the CGS as an office reporting directly to DNR was unanimously passed by the legislature but vetoed by Colorado Governor Bill Owens. During the last decade, the Survey’s budget grew from $1.5 million to $5 million, with money coming from the general fund, new severance-tax allocations, and outside sources. Increased public outreach and services accompanied budget growth. Recently, general-fund allocations dropped to zero with the State budget crisis.

The Survey operates under several statutes that clearly state its mission. The statutes mandate that the Survey provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Colorado, promote economic development, inventory resources, determine hazard areas, advise other agencies and counties, and provide reports to the public. A complete statement is available at

To date, the response to Rep. Johnson’s proposal has been mixed. The role of the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists is to bring this issue to the membership as an informational service. Your opinions are important, and time is running short before the next legislative session opens in January 2004. Please send your comments to Rep. Johnson, your Colorado state legislators, the governor, and/or the Department of Natural Resources. Rep. Johnson can be contacted at 303-866-2951 or The Colorado Department of Natural Resources can be contacted at 303-866-3311. In addition, letters to the Outcrop editors can be sent care of the RMAG office or by email.

Larry Anna interviewed Representative Johnson and prepared the research for this article. Any misinterpretation of Mr. Anna’s research is solely the responsibility of the author.


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