||Nightime âcity lightâ footprints derived from DMSP/OLS satellite images were merged with census data and a digital soils map in a continental-scale test of a remote sensing and geographic information system methodology for approximating the extent of built-up land and its potential impact on soil resources in the United States. Using image processing techniques and census data, we generated maps where the âcity lightsâ class represented mean population densities of 947 persons km−2 and 392 housing units km−2, areas clearly not available to agriculture. By our analysis, such âcity lightsâ representing urban areas accounted for 2.7% of the surface area in the United States, an area approximately equal to the State of Minnesota or one half the size of California. Using the UN/FAO Fertility Capability Classification System to rank soils, results for the United States show that development appears to be following soil resources, with the better agricultural soils being the most urbanized. Some unique soil types appear to be on the verge of being entirely coopted by âurban sprawl.â Urban area figures derived from the DMSP/OLS imagery compare well to those derived from statistical sources. Further testing and refinement of the methodology remain but the technique shows promise for possible extension to global evaluations of urbanization, population and even global productivity.