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November 3, 2004
In opening the 2004 listening session, USGS Director Chip Groat welcomed participants, highlighting the increasing value of these annual sessions. He introduced his concept of a Natural Hazards Program initiative, and emphasized that it would not be undertaken at the expense of other core programs or projects of the USGS. Commitments made, programs advanced by the USGS in all of its disciplines and centers will continue. He explained that the idea for a new USGS initiative arose out of discussions about the future and focus of the agency. The choice of natural hazards was due, in part, to the common interest expressed by many stakeholders during previous listening sessions and by scientists and USGS customers around the nation.
USGS wants to focus its attention on what it does best and what people care most fundamentally about -- their lives, their property and their quality of life. Natural hazards are something that the public wants and needs more information about. Many people have experienced first-hand the devastation of an earthquake, flood, volcano, landslide, wildfire, or hurricane. In the summer of 2004 alone, the nation experienced four devastating hurricanes and floods, a moderate but significant earthquake in California, and the reawakening of Mount St. Helens. Thus, a natural hazards program has the potential to connect the value of science to the everyday lives of people in the U.S. It also provides an opportunity for all of the USGS science disciplines to participate. Dr. Groat emphasized that this initiative would draw on the core capabilities of all disciplines in contributing to increased scientific understanding of these hazards.
USGS is committed to extending the relevance of science to the public, educating them about the risks associated with natural hazards and how to mitigate those risks and providing useful products that the public and professionals can use to improve their quality of life and make their lives safer. Perhaps the most ambitious goal stated by Director Groat is for USGS to eventually develop the ability to forecast when and where natural hazards will occur and what their impacts will be. Director Groat also emphasized the necessity and desire of USGS to work with existing and new partners to make a new USGS natural hazards initiative a success.
Director Groat reiterated that, through this listening session, he and the USGS Executive Leadership Team hoped to learn more from participants regarding the scope of an initiative, potential impacts and benefits, priorities and emphases, how to communicate with a broad audience, how various groups/partners can contribute, and how to build on USGS's core capabilities. Lastly, Director Groat stressed that the session was a dialogue and encouraged participants to contribute their opinions, thoughts and ideas.