ArcNews Online

Spring 2006
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Integrated Cadastral System for U.S. Public Land System

BLM's GeoCommunicator Web Site Accesses and Distributes Spatial Data

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GeoCommunicator depicting mineral leases.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for cadastral survey, land- and mineral-use authorization, and resource management of public lands. The National Integrated Land System (NILS) project was developed to provide a bridge to share this land and mineral record information within the government and the private sector. NILS is a joint project between the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in partnership with states, counties, and private industry to develop a common data model and a set of software tools for the collection, management, and sharing of land survey data, cadastral data, and land record information. The NILS publication site, called GeoCommunicator, can be accessed at Since ArcNews last discussed NILS (Winter 2003/2004), many important developments and additions have occurred that warrant a follow-up article at this time.

NILS is leading the drive for standardization and ensures a standardized data model and applications that are beneficial to both the BLM and the general public. By using products, such as ArcIMS and ArcSDE, within the ArcGIS platform, the NILS architecture has been designed to accommodate changing user and data capture requirements. NILS is built on an enterprise architecture. This means that evolving business needs and requirements drive the evolution of the system.

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The GeoCommunicator Web site depicting oil and gas leasing.

The NILS project was initiated in 1999 to create a business solution for land managers who face an increasingly complex environment of complicated transactions, legal challenges, and deteriorating and difficult-to-access records. This complex environment is made even more challenging considering that BLM is responsible for overseeing public land and the corresponding land and mineral records that date back more than 200 years. The number of records managed by the BLM is in the billions. ArcGIS 9 (ArcInfo) with ModelBuilder was used to develop and standardize the BLM's survey, title, and records management. Within the GeoCommunicator Web site, ArcView, ArcIMS, and ArcSDE software are used.

The NILS "field-to-fabric" concept initiated the development of a common land data model that integrates the world of surveying with GIS, which has greatly facilitated cooperative land management and improved decision making among all land managers. Moreover, it has provided the BLM, USFS, additional partners, and the general public with improved tools for efficient multiple-use management of the national forest and public lands. This concept is fundamental to preserving the accuracy and quality of the survey data and providing methodology to maintain the integrity of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) coordinates. The NILS land data model supports a statewide PLSS measurement and computational network stored and maintained in the NILS database. A goal for NILS is to minimize data conversions. To meet this goal, the survey-based data is reconstructed as measured features in NILS.

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With the Identify button, case identification information can be accessed.

NILS has been developed in four modules: Survey Management, Measurement Management, Parcel Management, and GeoCommunicator.

The Survey Management and Measurement Management modules are specific applications to create, update, and maintain the PLSS network. The applications are based on object-oriented technology, and the PLSS data is stored within the geodatabase. To build and implement the Survey Management and Measurement Management applications, a geodatabase design had to be defined and software needed to be developed in order to perform the migration of survey data and functions to qualify and maintain the survey data. The Survey and Measurement Management applications provide surveyors with tools for importing, analyzing, and manipulating survey data to create the measurement network.

The Measurement Management module allows for the combination of measurement data from a variety of sources and reliabilities to create a seamless PLSS network. The Measurement Management module supports a suite of functions that allows for the transformation of plat survey data into a statewide PLSS measurement network to produce the best coordinate. From this, functions are provided to automatically generate or update the legal descriptions of polygon features with nominal descriptions, linking legal descriptions from LR2000 and adjusting the spatial location and extent of each feature. This is referred to as the "legal description fabric." The legal description fabric can then be used to create, maintain, and display land- and mineral-use records in the parcel fabric.

The Parcel Management module provides a method for updating and managing land records and uses authorization data stored in the data model. It provides custom GIS feature classes, tools, and procedures for editing land records in a transactional, history tracking environment. From the application, users can edit and construct the legal description fabric and create the required parcel fabric maps and reports of ownerships, land-use rights, use authorizations, and more.

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With GeoCommunicator, users can interatively map BLM land-use authorizations.

GeoCommunicator is the publication Web site for the distribution and access of spatial data from the NILS transaction application modules. GeoCommunicator provides searching, accessing, and dynamic mapping of data for federal surface management boundaries, mining claims, land- and mineral-use records, and PLSS data. The GeoCommunicator Web site can be used for community planning, parcel development, e-government planning and implementation, and other applications.

The GeoCommunicator Web site has recently added oil and gas stipulations for the states of Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico; geothermal cases; solid mineral cases, such as coal and potash; known leasing areas; and logical mining units, as well as range allotment and pastures.

For more information, contact Leslie Cone, project manager, BLM Land and Resources Project Office (e-mail:, or visit the GeoCommunicator Web site at

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