Sponsored by: National Exploration, Wells and Pumps
The Future of State Geological Surveys: the Arizona Case Study
Lee Allison, State Geologist and Director, Arizona Geological Survey
Abstract: The Arizona Geological Survey lost its funding as a state agency on June 30, 2016 and its duties transferred to the University of Arizona, as a consequence of Governor Doug Ducey’s initiative to consolidate and downsize state government and provide annual tax cuts.
While the Governor’s office assured stakeholders the Surveys staff, assets, and capabilities would remain intact, their expectation was that the University would assume all the costs for the Survey operations. The University however, expected to receive an additional state appropriation for taking on what had been state service duties. Despite no funding specifically appropriated for AZGS, UA is providing partial funding to AZGS for one year. By July 2017 the Survey must become fully self-supporting, through grants, contracts, and fees for services. What is currently available for free, such as online earth fissure maps, mining files, and publications, may soon be put behind a paywall.
Our office space at UA is approximately one-quarter the size of its former state offices, limiting the ability to house staff, files, and records. Consequently, AZGS closed its Phoenix branch office, shut down the Arizona Experience store, and both libraries. About half of the Tucson library was given away to university and state libraries, professional societies, individuals and companies. More than 25,000 topo maps were given away in the last days before the state offices were vacated. However, about one-fourth of the library and 5-10,000 topo maps went into the dumpster. The staff has reduced by one-third since the Governor announced the consolidation, due to uncertainties over the future of the Survey, and layoffs are anticipated due to the loss of revenues, reducing the staff by another 15-20%. The AZGS Economic Geology has lost all of its staff, which is ironic as Arizona is the number 1 non-fuel mining state in the country.
State geological surveys across the country are facing unprecedented challenges. The Colorado Survey lost its state funding, found a home at the School of Mines and is rebuilding as the state has incrementally refunded the agency as lawmakers discovered the loss of critical functions. The Nevada Survey lost 50% of its funding during the Great Recession but again, is rebuilding as critical functions are being restored. The Illinois Survey, the largest in the nation, has lost 20% of its funding due to state budget issues. Nationwide, state survey employment is in long term decline as is the proportion of state funding. This is increasingly challenging, as there are few grant opportunities to fund what are viewed as state service functions.
AZGS stakeholders in industry and government are now urging restoration of ongoing base funding through a line item in the UA budget for Fiscal Year 2018, as part of efforts to preserve Survey functions and assets.
Bio: Lee Allison was appointed State Geologist and Director of the Arizona Geological Survey in 2005, which transferred to the University of Arizona in 2016. Previously, he served as State Geologist in Utah and Kansas. He was Policy Advisor for Science and Energy to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. He has extensive experience in petroleum exploration and development. He holds BA, MS, and PhD degrees in geology and has extensive experience for natural resource exploration and development. Lee is the host of the online video magazine, “Arizona Mining Review.” He is a global leader in cyber-infrastructure for the geosciences including coordinating the 15-nation Belmont Forum e-Infrastructure and Data Management initiative.