BRANCH OF GEOGRAPHIC SCIENCES


The BLM Nevada Branch of Geographic Sciences provides services and products through a number of resources. Cadastral Survey, National Mineral Surveyor Program and Mineral Surveys, Geographic Coordinate Data Base (GCDB), Public Land Records, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide direct support to the BLM’s business needs and mission to properly and effectively manage the public lands for future generations.
 
 
CADASTRAL SURVEY
The Continental Congress through the "Land Ordinance of 1785", adopted a “Rectangular Survey System” on May 20, 1785, which defines the public lands by Township, Range and Section, modified by the Act of May 18, 1796 and other subsequent Acts into the recognizable cadastral survey system of today. Originally established by congress in 1812 under the Treasury Department as the “General Land Office” (GLO), the GLO among other things was responsible for the surveys of the public lands. Successor to the GLO emerged when the consolidation of the GLO and the Grazing Service occurred on July 16, 1946, creating the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The BLM Cadastral Survey program is the custodian of the rectangular grid infrastructure which is also known as the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The "direct system" of public land surveying as we know it today started on June 25, 1910 with the end of the contract system.  The "official" federal authority government surveys of the public lands are conducted by the Cadastral Survey office in each BLM state, and are congressionally mandated prior to any land conveyance.
 
 
U.S. MINERAL SURVEYOR PROGRAM AND MINERAL SURVEYS
The BLM has the primary responsibility for administering the laws and regulations governing the disposal of most minerals on public lands, as well as administration of the U.S. Mineral Surveyor Program.  Mineral deposits located on open public lands are released to exploration and purchase by citizens of the United States and those who have declared their intention to become such.  As part of the “mineral patenting” process, a claimant is required to have a correct survey of the claim made under the proper authority.  Marking the legal boundaries of mineral claims is performed by BLM appointed Mineral Surveyors.  These surveys are examined, finalized and approved under the authority of the appropriate BLM Cadastral Survey office, in which the claim is located.
 
 
GEOGRAPHIC COORDINATE DATA BASE (GCDB)
The BLM is building an automated Land Information System (LIS). The layers of information will hold a variety of resource data which can include: forest and grazing lands; mineral deposits; land ownership status; rights-of-ways, oil & gas leases, wildlife habitat, etc. As a common reference system to the different types of information within an LIS, the Geographic Coordinate Data Base (GCDB) is designed as the LIS base framework. To improve and assist with public land management, the GCDB will be used to graphically display data in BLM’s LIS.
 
 
PUBLIC LAND RECORDS
BLM Nevada created an automated records system which can provide customers easy access to accurate land and mineral records. In 2001, Nevada BLM transitioned from a manual process for creating, maintaining, and editing Title Records (Master Title Plats, Use Plats, and Historical Indices), to an automated process. In addition to the automated Title Records process, BLM Nevada in cooperation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) began scanning the “official” Cadastral Survey plats to create a digital copy of the official record in order to provide public access via the Internet.
 
 
GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS)
Until the development of modern technology, maps were hand drawn by skilled cartographers. BLM Nevada began using Moss/Maps to create computerized versions of maps beginning in 1986. By 1994 this technology had become more commonly known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the BLM had migrated to ESRI’s ArcInfo software. Today the BLM uses ESRI’s ArcGIS 9.1 suite of software to conduct mapping and geospatial analysis to support BLM business and program needs.

Old photo of a cadastral surveyor
Michael Harmening
Geographic Sciences Branch Chief
Chief Cadastral Surveyor for Nevada
BLM Nevada State Office
1340 Financial Boulevard
Reno, Nevada 89502