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USGS Historical Imagery Western US

This dataset contains an imagery base layer representing conditions from the mid-1950s across the western United States. We sourced the imagery from over 160,000 aerial images in the USGS EROS Archive taken between 1940 and 1970, with the median acquisition date being 1954. The imagery provides complete coverage for 17 western U.S. states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Explore the dataset visually through our easy-to-use web map application at

Find alternative methods of downloading and utilizing the imagery on our data download page.

We preprocessed the imagery in MATLAB to reduce image vignetting and improve image contrast. Orthorectification was performed in Metashape. The compiled imagery had varying Ground Sampling Distance values, ranging from 0.6 to 1.7 meters. The GEE dataset was written out at 1 meter GSD. Dive deeper into our data processing methods at our development page.

Additional Preprocessing

The feature collection had Dates in different formats everything from simply


An approach was taken to convert and standardize these dates and add the corresponding dates as epoch system:time_start to features in the overall feature collection. This was then merged back into a feature collection with additional properties system:time_start, year, standardized_date. Based on the year metadata you can now get counts across multiple time periods I am summarizing a 5 year range distribution

Year Range Data Total
1935-1939 2175
1940-1944 4380
1945-1949 31176
1950-1954 29966
1955-1959 25657
1960-1964 12347
1965-1969 12360
1970-1974 19623
1975-1979 14290
1980-1984 675
1985-1989 67


Morford, S.L., Allred, B.W., Jensen, E.R., Maestas, J.D., Mueller, K.R., Pacholski, C.L., Smith, J.T., Tack, J.D., Tackett, K.N. and Naugle, D.E.
(2023), Mapping tree cover expansion in Montana, U.S.A. rangelands using high-resolution historical aerial imagery. Remote Sens Ecol Conserv.


Earth Engine Snippet

var conusWest_imagery = ee.ImageCollection("projects/wlfw-um/assets/historical-imagery/conus-west");
var conusWest_metadata = ee.FeatureCollection("projects/wlfw-um/assets/historical-imagery/conus-west-seamlines");
var conusWest_metadata_with_date = ee.FeatureCollection("projects/sat-io/open-datasets/wlfm-um-extra/wlfm-um-seamlines");

Sample code:

Sample app:


These datasets are available under the Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Keywords: Aerial imagery, United States, Great Plains, Great Basin, Historical, photogrammetry

Provided by: University of Montana, Lands for Wildlife, Montana NRCS and Intermountain West Joint Venture

Curated in GEE by: University of Montana, Lands for Wildlife, Montana NRCS and Intermountain West Joint Venture

Last updated: 2023-09-24