Open Trails Position on USGS Topographical Maps

OTNJ recommends using the 1997 USGS Topographical maps to determine a baseline of roads in Wharton State forest.  
The 2011 and 2014 maps are not valid for this purpose.  In 2009, for cost savings purposes, the USGS stopped tracking unimproved roads, and instead relied on other external sources of data, which is largely incomplete.  Unimproved roads are the primary type of roads that traverse Wharton State Forest.  As as result, the last valid documented baseline for Wharton State Forest is contained in the 1997 map, which was before this detail was dropped.  Here are is a specific citation regarding these types of roads from the USGS website:
  • Remote roads — Traditional topographic maps were compiled in part from direct field observation, and were therefore a unique source of information for remote and unimproved roads. From mid 2010 to late 2015 US Topo maps used commercially licensed road data. Commercial data are accurate and complete in populated areas and along transportation corridors, but less so in remote and unpopulated areas. Building a national public domain road dataset that can rival the traditional topographic map series for overall completeness and accuracy is a long-term problem, but is being discussed by USGS, USFS, Census Bureau, and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In October 2015, the US Topo project and the other products of The National Map switched data sources from commercial data to public domain road data from the Census Bureau. US Topo maps have always used public domain data from USFS on National Forest lands.


As noted, the USGS may elect in the future to bring back this level of detail, however, when someone inquires with them today on how to obtain this data, they are referred to the 1997 map.
This information is of critical importance because a road that was on the map in 1997 is no less valid today than it was then, it is just that the USGS has elected to drop this detail from from their latest two releases for cost cutting purposes.  
You may verify this information by contacting the USGS at: 1-888-275-8747, Select Option 2.
Additionally, there are two relevant FAQs on the USGS webpage that discuss the fact that the 2011 and 2014 maps are no longer complete: