Complete "Field-to-Fabric" Technology Solution for Land Managers Being Planned

Esri Services logoWhat do the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service have in common? The National Integrated Lands System (NILS).

What Is NILS?

NILS is a joint development project ( between the BLM, the Forest Service, and in partnership with a consortium of states, counties, and private industry to provide Business solutions for the management of cadastral records and land parcel information. The goal of NILS is to provide a process to collect, maintain, and store survey, parcel, and associated land records information that meets some of the common Business needs of land records and land resource managers. NILS is expected to provide a solution that unifies the worlds of surveying and GIS. Implementation of the project requires a common data model, in-field computing tools, a measurement management engine to analyze survey data, and parcel database maintenance tools. Esri is working with the NILS team to develop this common data model and tools based on ArcInfo 8 technology.


NILS will be designed to provide the user with tools to manage land records and cadastral (land) data in a "Field-to-Fabric" manner. The NILS conceptual data model is based on the topological integration of geometry across multiple feature tiers from the fundamental survey points to measurement networks, to legal description fabrics, and to interpretive parcel fabrics. A fabric refers to a collection of features that share geometry at nodes (corners) and edges (boundaries) in a topological structure. When features in a "fabric" are edited, a change to a geometric element (i.e., a point, line, or area feature) affects the shape of all features that are topologically tied to the edited feature. This process is paramount for land records managers and maintainers of cadastral mapping databases to improve the accuracy, quality, and usability of cadastral data.

Common Cadastral Geodata Model

The NILS data model is being designed to comply with the FGDC Cadastral Data Content Standard, enhanced to meet the core functional requirements of the NILS partnerships. The model contains objects representing standard cadastral Business entities and relationships, and is designed as an open and extensible format to facilitate both generalization and customization. "Esri is very excited to be part of this effort in working toward a common cadastral data model. This public/private partnership is the embodiment of FGDC's vision for a National Spatial Data Infrastructure," says Jack Dangermond, president of Esri.


NILS is being developed with an object-oriented analysis and design (OOAD) methodology based on user-specified Business requirements and processes. The use of OOAD technology benefits the users because the software is extensible, language neutral and independent, supports distributed computing, and allows the users to define the object properties and behaviors based on their Business needs. The use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software is thereby maximized. Pursuant to the OOAD methodology, Esri is following an iterative application development cycle whereby requirements gathered by the team early in the project, in the form of use cases, are then prioritized into phases for development.

Because the NILS design process will be based on industry standards, including the COM and OO technology, the software design will support a modern development platform for NILS implementations by extension of COTS software. Such implementations of the NILS design model will include enhancements to Esri's ArcInfo desktop applications to support the NILS Business processes. These four major application extension areas are Survey Management, Measurement Management, Parcel Management, and GeoCommunicator.

NILS Survey Management product boxSurvey Management: An integrated set of NILS data and tool objects that will extend compatible survey data collection software packages to support the capture of measurement features and metadata directly into a GIS database format. The goal is to minimize the need for data conversion and reconstruction as measured features are incorporated into the land records management system.

NILS Measure Management product boxMeasurement Management: NILS data and tool objects used to construct unified coordinate solution networks by performing a weighted adjustment (such as least-squares) according to the qualitative characteristics of individual feature elements in the working set. This will enable users to create a higher quality control network database for both PLSS and metes and bounds land environments.

NILS Parcel Management product boxParcel Management: NILS data and tool objects for managing land records and cadastral feature data stored in the database model. It will include standard feature classes, tools, and procedures for editing land records in a transactional, history-tracking environment. Support will be provided to allow users to construct and edit legal description fabrics and to create required parcel fabrics from them. Parcel fabrics may include ownership, land use rights, tax assessment, and others.

NILS GeoCommunicator product boxGeoCommunicator: A proactive Internet subscription (no fee) Web site for sharing information about data and activities of interest to land managers. Map navigation and content filters will allow users to discover information that meets their needs such as available parcel data, planned surveys, and potential cost-sharing partners. The goal of the GeoCommunicator is to facilitate data sharing and collaborative efforts among land managers.

NILS is also being designed, developed, and released using an incremental implementation life cycle. Functionality is being prioritized and delivered to users in successive stages, rather than waiting until the entire system is developed. Current plans include

  • Survey Management—FY2001/2002
  • Measurement Management—FY 2001/2002
  • Parcel Management—FY 2002/2003
  • GeoCommunicator—FY 2000/2001

For more information contact Leslie Cone, Bureau of Land Management (tel.: 303-236-0815), or John Steffenson, Esri (tel.: 303-449-7779, e-mail

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