BLM>California>What We Do>Cadastral
Print Page

Geographic Services

 Puffy clouds over mountain range with trees in foreground (Photo by Matt Campos/BLM)

 The BLM provides many services relating to the geography of federal interest land in California:

 Cadastral Survey

Two surveyors setting up equipment in a rocky area with trees and a prominent rock formation in the background (Photo by Todd Lang/BLM)Your observations are to be taken with great pains and accuracy, to be entered distinctly and intelligibly for others as well as yourself to comprehend all the elements necessary, with the aid of the usual tables, to fix the latitude and longitude of the places at which they were taken - Thomas Jefferson

The oldest BLM program, the cadastral survey has been responsible for surveying and mapping federal lands in California since 1850.  As required by the Land Ordinance of 1785, it is the cadastral surveyors' responsibility to establish and maintain the boundaries defined by the Public Land Survey System.  In California, this responsibility also includes establishing and maintaining federal land boundaries within or adjoining Spanish land grants which predate the PLSS in this state.  The surveys conducted by the original cadastral surveyors form the framework for all land title (public and private) for the United States.  Today, the cadastral survey continues to fulfill its mission to establish and maintain the integrity of federal land boundaries in California.

The California Cadastral Survey of the Geographic Services Branch maintains these sections to fulfill its mission:

Cadastral Field Section

The land surveyors in California are located in field stations and units throughout the state.  These offices are staffed by professional land surveyors and technicians, whose responsibility it is to perform surveys and resurveys of the boundaries of federal interest lands in California.

 Surveyor with GPS equipment set up on a steel survey monument under a clear blue sky in brushy mountainous area (Photo by Ron Schulz/BLM)Pack horses bringing supplies to a survey crew in a tree-lined area on a cloudy day (Photo by Matt Campos/BLM)Surveyor using a wood chisel to carve into a tree to uncover scribe marks (Photo by Todd Lang/BLM)Two surveyors hiking through dense brushy area under a clear blue sky with the Pacific Ocean in the background (Photo by Dan Lipiec/BLM)Surveyor using optical surveying equipment mounted on a tripod on a sunny day in a dry grassy meadow with trees in the background (Photo by Greg Aten/BLM)

Inquiries should be directed to the Field Section Supervisor at the BLM California State Office.

Cadastral Support and Records Section

This section of the Geographic Services Branch is located at the BLM California State Office in Sacramento.  The services provided by this section are:

Hand holding red pencil marking errors on a map spread out on a desktop with magnifying glass, scale, and color markers (Photo by Ron Schulz/BLM)Cadastral Review.  This office is staffed by cadastral surveyors who review the surveys submitted to the central branch office by the field section.  It produces and distributes the copies of the approved survey plats and field notes for the National Archives, other BLM branches, other government agencies, and the public.  This office also reviews land descriptions provided by the BLM Realty Branch, and answers inquiries regarding the PLSS from the general public.

Survey Records.  Responsible for the protection and sale of plats and maps made by the General Land Office (GLO) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) throughout California.

Inquiries should be directed to the Office Section Supervisor.

Public Room

Also located at the BLM California State Office in Sacramento and open to the public, this office provides a variety of services relating to federal lands.  Records available here include quad maps, land status maps, mining claims, and patents.  Permit and renewal applications for use of federal lands for various purposes are also available here.  Further information regarding the services provided by the public room can be found by clicking the link above.

 Inquiries should be directed to the Public Room Supervisor.

Geographic Coordinate Data Base (GCDB)

BLM is building an automated Land Information System (LIS) for improved public land management.  The common reference system for LIS is the Geographic Coordinate Data base (GCDB).  GCDB is a collection of geographic information representing the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) of the United States. The GCDB grid is computed from BLM survey records (official plats and field notes), local survey records, and geodetic control information.

Inquiries should be directed to the GCDB Coordinator.

Useful Links 

Mapping Sciences (link update pending) - Services Provided by Mapping Sciences include aerial photographs, quadrangle maps, Land Status/Title research ,Graphics/Web applications, Layout and Design ,Illustrations, GIS Applications, Programming, Training and Technical Assistance Surface, Subsurface, Land Status Geographic Names, GIS Maintenance, Manual/Automated Mapping Review Wilderness Maps, and Legal Descriptions.

Cadastral Tools - Nationally maintained site includes glossaries of survey terms, histories of surveys in the United States, links to different editions of the Manual of Surveying Instructions, and other publications of interest regarding the PLSS and federal interest lands.

GeoCommunicator - Search, access, and map data for federal land stewardship, land survey information, and land & mineral use records from BLM's LR2000 database.

National Site  - Washington D.C. Office's Cadastral Site.

1973 Manual of Surveying Instructions - Searchable .html version.  Pages are separated by sections.

2009 Manual of Surveying Instructions - Download a searchable .pdf version from the national BLM website.