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When is a Resurvey Dependent or Independent?

There is at times some confusion about the types of resurveys which were executed in the past. In Wyoming many townships in the early 1900's were either canceled and resurveyed or simply resurveyed without prior cancellation. The plats of many of these are simply titled resurvey. There is rarely any indication as to whether the resurvey was an independent or a dependent resurvey. What follows on this page is some background and clarification of what is a dependent resurvey and what is an independent resurvey.

General Resurveys of the Public Lands Law were enacted in 1909:

Resurvey of Public Lands. The Act of March 3, 1909 (35 Stat. 845) as amended by joint resolution June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. 884) and codified in 43 U.S.C. 772, provides that: "The Secretary of the Interior may, as of March 3, 1909, in his discretion, cause to be made, as he may deem wise under the rectangular system on that date provided by law, such resurveys or retracements of the surveys of public lands as, after full investigation, he may deem essential to properly mark the boundaries of the public lands remaining undisposed of: Provided, that no such resurvey or retracement shall be so executed as to impair the bona fide rights or claims of any claimant, entryman, or owner of lands affected by such resurvey or retracement, . . . ."

Resurveys had been executed prior to this date with special legislation of Congress authorizing the survey work. The Act of March 3, 1909 provided general authorization for the General Land Office (GLO) to conduct resurveys.

and The Act of September 21, 1918

Further Authority for Resurveys. The Act of September 21, 1918 (40 Stat. 965; 43 U.S.C. 773), provides authority for the resurvey, by the Government, of townships in which the disposals exceed 50 percent of the total area. Such resurveys will be undertaken only upon application of the owners of at least three-fourths of the privately owned land in the township, and upon deposit of the estimated costs of the resurvey.

Definitions from the Glossaries of BLM Surveying and Mapping Terms

Resurvey – A term applied to the reestablishment or restoration of land boundaries and subdivisions by the rerunning and remaking of the lines that were represented in the field note record and on the plat of the previous official survey. This includes, as in the original survey, a field note record of the retracement data, observations, measurements and monuments descriptive of the work performed, and a plat that represents such resurvey, all subject to the approval of the directing authority. The above definition is intended or implied unless modified as in an Independent Resurvey or in some other appropriate manner. The adjective "dependent" applied to the term "resurvey" is for emphasis, and specifically to suggest the recovery and restoration of the prior official survey.

Dependent Resurvey – A retracement and reestablishment of the lines of the original survey in their true original positions according to the best available evidence of the positions of the original corners. It includes the restoration of lost corners in accordance with procedures described in the Manual of Surveying Instructions.

Independent Resurvey – An official rerunning and remarking intended to supersede the records of the original survey and establish new section lines and subdivisions on public lands only. Any patented lands involved must be identified and segregated according to the original survey. Only remaining areas of the public lands may be resurveyed without regard to the original survey. (Emphasis added)

Excerpts from Chapter VI from the 1973 Manual of Surveying Instructions

6-1. A resurvey is a reconstruction of land boundaries and subdivisions accomplished by rerunning re- marking the lines represented in the field-note record or on the plat of a previous official survey. The field-note record of the resurvey includes a description of the technical manner in which the resurvey was made, full reference to recovered evidence of the previous survey or surveys, and a complete description of the work performed and monuments established. The resurvey, like an original survey, is subject to approval of the directing authority.

6-4. A dependent resurvey is a retracement and reestablishment of the lines of the original survey in their true original positions according to the best available evidence of the positions of the original corners. The section lines and lines of legal subdivision of the dependent resurvey in themselves represent the best possible identification of the true legal boundaries of lands patented on the basis of the plat of the original survey. In legal contemplation and in fact, the lands contained in a certain section of the original survey and the lands contained in the corresponding section of the dependent resurvey are identical. (Emphasis added)

6-5. An independent resurvey is an establishment of new section lines, and often new township lines, independent of and without reference to the corners of the original survey. In an independent resurvey it is necessary to preserve the boundaries of those lands patented by legal subdivisions of the sections of the original survey which are not identical with the corresponding legal subdivisions of the sections of the independent resurvey. This is done by surveying out by metes and bounds and designating as tracts the lands entered or patented on the basis of the original survey. These tracts represent the position and form of the lands alienated on the basis of the original survey, located on the ground according to the best available evidence of their true original positions.

Excerpts from the 1930 Manual of Surveying Instructions

Section 399 - When the retracements show that the principal resurvey problem is one of obliteration, with comparative absence of large discrepancies, i. e. -that the early survey had been made faithfully, then that official survey can be reconstructed or restored as it was in the beginning; the methods applied are termed a "dependent resurvey."

Conversely, it the retracments show the existence of intolerable discrepancies, i. e. - that the early survey had not been faithfully executed, usually including the fact that some of the lines had not been established, having no actual existence, and therefore incapable of reconstruction or restoration to conform with fictitious record, entirely different methods can and must be applied to the public-land area, termed an "independent resurvey."  

When did Dependent Resurveys Begin?

The 1919 Advance Sheets (June 16, 1919) of the 1930 Manual of Surveying Instructions, in sections 399 and 400, page 280 (sections 399, 400 and 401, page 284, 1930 Manual), makes reference to the distinction between dependent and independent resurveys.

Section 400, 1930 Manual, defines dependent resurvey much as the definition presently exists. (See above in section 6-4 for the 1973 Manual.) Section 400 also states "Titles, areas and descriptions should remain absolutely unchanged in the typical dependent survey."

Section 401, 1930 Manual, defines an independent resurvey as "methods adopted to considerable areas of public land where the original survey can not be identified with any degree of certainty.. This type of survey provides for the segregation of individual tracts when necessary,.."

Generally the 1947 Manual uses nearly identical definitions as those from the 1930 Manual.

The presently existing definition was also presented nearly word for word in:

J.M. BEARD (ON REHEARING)
Department of the Interior
52 I.D. 451
Decided July 25, 1928

It is evident from this decision that there was a definite distinction between dependent and independent resurveys, prior to the 1930 Manual. And as further stated in this decision while defining the term dependent resurvey "No tract segregations of alienated lands entered or patented by legal subdivisions of the original survey are made in a dependently resurveyed township, for the reason that the section lines and lines of legal subdivision of the dependent resurvey in themselves represent the best possible identification of the true legal boundaries of the lands patented on the basis of the plat of the original survey."

Summary

There are two important considerations involved with any type of Government ( GLO or BLM) resurvey. First, the adequate protection of existing rights acquired under the survey (either original or a resurvey) in the matter of their location on the earth's surface, and, second, the proper marking of the boundaries of the remaining public lands. Protection of bona fide rights in one type of resurvey is identical to that of the other type, whether dependent or independent.

The determination of whether a resurvey was an independent resurvey or a dependent resurvey can be ascertained by inspection of the resurvey plat.

If the plat contains tracts segregating the private parcels from the remaining public lands, it was an independent resurvey. This is not a matter of whether the original survey was canceled or not. It is strictly a result of the method applied to the resurvey as depicted on the resurvey plat.

If, on the other hand, the plat maintains a configuration resembling the original plat, it is a dependent resurvey. As indicated above, the dependent resurvey does not change titles or descriptions and maintains areas proportionally.