Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

What was the process use to develop the 2009 edition of the Manual?
What is the status of the 2009 edition of the Manual?

During the development of the 2009 edition, how did BLM inform the private sector?
Did the BLM engage the private sector in the update of the 1973 Manual?
After publication, does the BLM plan any training for interested surveyors and other publics
How can I learn more on my own about the BLM’s Cadastral Surveying Program and the 2009 edition of the Manual?

Are there significant changes in the 2009 edition?

 

What was the process used to develop the 2009 edition of the Manual?

Sounding Boards, comprised of 79 subject matter experts from both the public and private sectors, surveying, mining, and legal profession, were called upon to review the first draft. Two BLM internal technical reviews resulted in over 1,700 edits and comments, and the draft was subject to comments by the Office of the Solicitor and Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Prior to its release, the 2009 edition is approved by Department of the Interior (DOI) and BLM management.

- 2/01/2010 

 

What is the status of the 2009 edition of the Manual?

It became official on September 24, 2009. 

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- 2/01/2010 

 

During the development of the 2009 edition, how did the BLM inform the private sector?

Presentations were given about the development of the 2009 edition and its relationship to state laws and the practice of private land surveying. Audiences included private surveyors in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and more. A 2009 edition website was developed to enable interested parties to track the process.

- 2/01/2010 

 

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Did the BLM engage the private sector in the update of the 1973 Manual?

Yes. Approximately 25 subject matter experts from the private sector and other Federal agencies were solicited to provide comments. 18 responded with substantive technical edits that have been incorporated into the 2009 edition.

- 2/01/2010 

 

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After publication, does the BLM plan any training for interested surveyors and other publics?

Yes. Training sessions are planned for the BLM Cadastral Survey leadership and surveyors, Certified Federal Surveyors, and professional land surveyors during the second-half of 2009 and beyond, as needed.

- 1/26/2010

How can I learn more on my own about the BLM’s Cadastral Surveying Program and the 2009 edition of the Manual?

  

- 2/01/2010 

Are there significant changes in the 2009 edition?

Yes and no. Most of the content in the Manual will not change. Remarkably, most of what was relevant to practitioners in 1973 remains so in 2009. However, there are four areas of significant change, two areas of policy clarification, an added topic, and a change in principle. These are summarized below.
 
Four Areas of Significant Change
1. Water Boundaries: The Federal courts and the IBLA continue to articulate further nuances regarding water boundaries, such as navigability determinations, submerged lands issues, and ownership of unsurveyed islands in meandered non-navigable streams. These decisions are addressed in the 2009 edition in a manner of general instructions to guide the surveyor.
 
 
 
 
2. Standard of Evidence: The Federal courts, followed by IBLA, have changed the standard of evidence to determine whether a corner is existent, obliterated, or lost. The beyond reasonable doubt evidence standard used in the 1973 edition of the Manual is now a substantial evidence standard. Definitions of existent, obliterated, and lost corners using the substantial evidence standard in the context of the PLSS and other Federal surveys are included in the 2009 edition.
 
 
 
 
3. Coordinates as Collateral Evidence: General instructions are given in cases where repeatable coordinates may be collateral evidence of a corner position and when they may be the best available evidence for the position of an obliterated corner.
 
 
 
New technology, enabling quick generation of precise and repeatable coordinates, has led to many corner positions being "witnessed" by coordinates. Coordinates by themselves have little meaning. However, using the "following in the footsteps" concept, if the first surveyor documents how he or she obtained the coordinates so the second surveyor can, within an acceptable degree of confidence, determine the same point on the earth's surface (following in the computational footsteps) within acceptable level of certainty, then coordinates may be the best available evidence of the corner position.
 
 
 
 
4. Mineral Survey Resurveys: Instructions have been expanded for mineral survey resurveys and mineral segregation surveys. The 2009 edition has incorporated much that is in the Bureau’s publication Mineral Survey Procedures Guide and also includes general instructions on resurvey procedures of mineral lands surveys.
 
 
 
 
An Area of Policy Clarification

Closing Corners: A corner, no matter what it has been called in the official record (closing corner, junior corner, crossing-closing corner, intersection point, or corner of minimum control), established during a careful retracement of the intersected, senior, or existing line, can be accepted in place and may be an angle point in the intersected, senior, or existing line. By expired policy from the General Land Office, closing corners were established approximately on an intersected line by measurement to one corner on the intersected line. By current policy, when a corner monument, established by the expired closing-corner policy method, is recovered, the intersected line is to be retraced between the two adjacent corners of the intersected line. If it is determined that the closing corner monument is off the intersected line, it is to be amended and the true point of intersection is to be monumented and marked as the closing corner. The method, by which a corner is established and not by what it is called, will determine the proper treatment.

By current policy, corners are established on an intersected line by measurement to the nearest corner in each direction. These corners have been called closing corners, intersection points, corners of minimum control, and junior corners. Often times, a line was run and off-setting corners were established at the same time. These corners have been called closing corners, standard corners, intersection points, corners of minimum control, corners of maximum control, junior corners, and senior corners. How the corner is established and not what it is called is controlling. The 2009 edition clarifies that by current policy, when a corner monument established by the current closing-corner policy method is recovered, the intersected line is to be retraced between the two adjacent corners of the intersected line. If it is determined that the closing corner monument was established in an obvious careful retracement, it will be accepted as controlling the line intersected.

 
Specific Area Added
Alaska-centric Federal survey statutes: The 2009 edition include as an additional topic identification and discussion of the Federal survey statutes that pertain only to Alaska. There are approximately 14 Federal statutes that guide the PLSS surveyor’s work in Alaska and, as a result, the process is different from how a surveyor is to survey similar
situations under the general public land survey laws. Many of these "Alaska only" survey laws and existing instructions are included in the 2009 edition.
 
Change in Principle
Technology: In the 2009 edition, one major change in principle is that the Manual is largely technology independent. How the surveyor determines the relationship between point A and point B, i.e., measurement procedures and what instrumentation is used, will be determined for each survey from the best available technology to meet the purpose of that survey. How to measure is best handled by special instructions. 

 - 2/01/2010 

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