The Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) was established as an independent state agency by Laws 1987, Chapter 158, when it assumed the responsibilities of the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology. The Office of the State Geologist was created at the same time. In 2016 oversight of the AZGS was transferred to the University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). Statutory authority is found at A.R.S. §§27-101 through 27-110.
The AZGS serves as a primary source of geologic information, including maps and reports; provides information and advice in matters related to geological processes and use of the state’s mineral resources; encourages the wise use of lands and mineral resources; and provides technical advice and assistance to the public and persons in the industry.
Laws 2016, Chapter 128 transferred to the ABOR the responsibility of directing the work of AZGS and administering the Geological Survey Fund. The State Geologist serves at the pleasure of ABOR.
The Arizona Geological Survey is the latest in a line of academic departments and state agencies serving the people of the Arizona Territory and now the State of Arizona. In 1883, then Territorial Governor Tritle requested federal assistance in establishing a geologic survey for the Arizona Territory. The U.S. Congress responded in 1888 by creating the post of Territorial Geologist of Arizona. The unpaid position of Territorial Geologist first went to John F. Blandy, who served until the mid-1890s. Upon gaining statehood in 1912, the position of Territorial Geologist was abolished.
Territorial and state geologic agencies follow, in chronological order from earliest to most recent.
Laws 1915, Chapter 17 established the Arizona Bureau of Mines at the University of Arizona. Charles Willis was its first director.
In 1971, the first volume of Fieldnotes, a non-technical geologic newsletter was published. Its successor, Arizona Geology, first issued in the fall of 1988 is still published. Since 2010 it has been published as an e-magazine at http://blog.azgs.arizona.edu/(link is external). In 1971, William H. Dresher was named Director and State Geologist.
Laws 1977, Chapter 93 changed the name of the Bureau of Mines to the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology and established it as a division of the University of Arizona. The geologic survey branch became responsible for assessing and informing the public about geologic hazards in Arizona.
Laws 1987, Chapter 158 established the State Geologist and the Arizona Geological Survey as an independent state agency, replacing the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology while maintaining strong collegial ties with faculty and staff at the University of Arizona.
In 1991, the AZGS became the institutional home of Arizona’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) – a five-member commission charged with supporting and monitoring oil and gas exploration in the state.
The US Geological Survey in conjunction with the AZGS opened the jointly run Tucson Earth Science Information Center in August 1992. AZGS moved to its present location at 416 W. Congress St., Tucson in July 1995.
In 2011, the AZGS assumed the responsibilities of the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, including administrative matters, contracts, equipment, records and personnel. See Laws 2011, Chapter 27. Laws 2012, Chapter 19 continued the Arizona Geological Survey to 2022.
Laws 2016, Chapter 128 transferred the responsibilities of the AZGS to the University of Arizona, transferred appointment of and authority for the state geologist from the Governor to the Arizona Board of Regents, and modified certain duties of the AZGS. The measure also transferred the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from AZGS to ADEQ, including all funds, personnel and property, as well as the responsibility to appoint a person to administer provisions of law related to oil and gas.
The 2016 measure also transferred administration of the former Mining and Mineral Museum, (renamed the Mining, Mineral and Natural Resources Educational Museum), from the Arizona Historical Society to the AZGS. Unencumbered balances and future revenues of the Centennial Special Plate Fund were transferred from the Arizona Historical Society to the AZGS, retroactive to May 1, 2016. The measure outlined a process and established conditions to refurbish and reopen the former Mining and Mineral Museum, located on West Washington Street in Phoenix, which was closed May 1, 2011 for renovations and has not been reopened. Meeting the conditions determined whether the AZGS or the Arizona Historical Society would operate the Museum and affected the structure of the Museum Advisory Council.
Laws 2017, Chapter 221 repealed the conditional enactments and provisions related to the Mining and Mineral Museum enacted in 2016, and permanently transferred the Museum to the University of Arizona. The 2017 measure required the Arizona Department of Administration to convey title and ownership of the real property housing the Museum to the University of Arizona by July 1, 2017.
Laws 2019, Chapter 212 requires the AZGS to maintain a database of existing mines in order to allow cities and counties to identify areas with mineral and aggregate mines for land use planning purposes. The database must be updated annually.
- Arizona Revised Statutes §§27-101 to 110
- Session Laws
- Laws 1977, Chapter 93
- Laws 1987, Chapter 158
- Laws 2011, Chapter 27
- Laws 2012, Chapter 19
- Laws 2016, Chapter 128
- Laws 2017, Chapter 221
- Laws 2019, Chapter 212
Arizona Geological Survey website
Related collections at Arizona State Archives
- RG 67 – Arizona Geological Survey