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Winter 2004/2005
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GIS and Land Information

Few things are taken more for granted than the land on which we stand. We go about our daily lives seldom giving it a second thought other than when we're making our monthly house payments or undertaking property improvement projects. However, the management of information about land occupies the time and effort of millions of people all over the world and has a profound impact on our lives in the present, as well as in the future.

The term "land information" comes very close to defining a geographic information system (GIS), so it comes as no surprise that GIS is the preeminent application for managing land information. In many cases, our first experience with land information involves trying to determine the boundary of a piece of land or who the owner may be. These questions invariably lead to the local assessor or clerk/recorder office where GIS is used to link information regarding legal descriptions, surveys, and ownership to an individual parcel. These same offices use GIS to analyze similar and/or nearby properties to determine the value of a parcel, which leads to the answer to another question we have all asked at one time or another: What is it worth?

When you think about all the factors that can impact the worth of land, you begin to realize the tremendous variety of GIS-managed land information systems. Planning agencies utilize GIS to investigate both current and responsible future uses of land. Insurers use land information and GIS to determine flood and fire risk determined by elevation, slope, exposure, and cover. Agricultural agencies typically map soil types and the productivity of land. These are only a few of the land information applications that determine the well-being of our economy and environment and the quality of our lives.

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