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Standards for Boundary Evidence - Cadastral Survey 

This page details the Bureau's plan to ensure Cadastral Survey review of boundary evidence prior to the approval of significant land and resource transactions and commercial projects.

H-9600-1-Cadastral Survey Handbook.  This Handbook clarifies existing BLM duties and responsibilities to administer, coordinate, and protect public lands.  Additionally, these policies outline the steps required to carry out these duties and responsibilities in compliance with Standards for Boundary Evidence (SBE) principles and Management of Land Boundaries (MLB) procedures.  Included are (1) SBE processes (IM No. 2011-122), (2) SBE action codes in LR2000 (IM No. 2012-060), (3) cost recovery for cadastral services in commercial projects (IM No. 2012-095), (4) increasing and funding scope of cadastral surveys (IM No. 2012-178), (5) high risk lands projects (IM No. 2014-015), and (6) marking and posting of BLM boundaries (IM No. 2006-113). 

This Handbook addresses Recommendations 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Inspector General Final Audit Report on DOI's Management of Land Boundaries (Audit No. C-IN-MOA-0001-2009).

Process - (PDF opens in new window) Process for Significant Land and Resource Transactions.

(Internal Only) Instruction Memorandum No 2014-146, "Guidance on Preparing Federal Register Notices."

303 DM 7.  Departmental Manual, Series - Departmental Management, Part 303 - Indian Trust Responsibilities, Chapter 7 - Standards for Indian Trust Lands Boundary Evidence (303 DM 7). This chapter provides Department-wide guidance and instruction for the gathering and application of boundary evidence with respect to Indian trust assets. The DM includes the use of Standards for Boundary Evidence (SBE) principles and Management of Land Boundaries (MLB) procedures to clarify Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and BLM responsibilities to administer, coordinate, and protect trust and restricted lands.

Management of Land Boundaries – A brochure and resource for all Federal, Tribe, and Alaska Native Corporation employees involved in processing and approving high-value realty and resource transactions and projects.

600 DM 5.  Departmental Manual, Series – Public Lands, Part 600 – Public Land Policy, Chapter 5 - Standards for Federal Lands Boundary Evidence (600 DM 5).  The Standards provide a means to properly manage Federal interest lands and resources by assessing the risk to a transaction or project.  Contained within the DM are guidelines for Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS) land and resource managers to produce timely, efficient, and economical Standards for Boundary Evidence (SBE) Certificates.  SBE standardizes and formalizes best practices processes to protect investments and public trust assets by assessing the risk to a transaction or project from land description ambiguities, local surveys not in accordance with Federal standards, physically conflicting boundaries, and boundaries not marked to Federal standards.  Applications of the Standards supplement existing protections of the United States’ title interest in land.  For BLM administered lands, 600 DM 5 supersede all previous instructions or directives on the technical subjects contained therein.

 600 DM 5

Request and Certificates - (PDF opens in new window) Explanation of Land Survey Services Request, Land Surveyor Report, Certificate of Inspection and Possession, and Boundary Assurance Certificate.

Request and Certificates - Fillable PDF files

LSSRLand Survey Services Request 107 Kb04.03.2015
LSRLand Surveyor Report 89 Kb04.03.2015
CIP Form 1Certificate of Inspection and Possesion Form 158 Kb04.03.2015
CIP Form 2Certificate of Inspection and Possession Form 2 /Disclaimer82 Kb15.09.2016
BA CertificateBoundary Assurance Certificate270 Kb15.09.2016

 600 DM 5 FAQs


What are the Standards for Boundary Evidence (SBE)?

The SBE provides a standardized risk-based system of identifying and documenting boundary evidence for lands administered by Department of the Interior (DOI) bureaus and offices (bureaus), except lands administered through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  We designed the SBE to assist bureau and office managers in determining whether boundaries are sufficient for the intended land and resource transaction.

What will change?

You will complete a Land Survey Services Request (LSSR), in coordination with your DOI Land Surveyor.  The Surveyor will provide you with an opinion and/or a risk assessment based on the condition of the boundary evidence in the area of interest of land and resource transactions.

Why now?

With this change in management of land boundaries policy, the DOI will resolve and implement Recommendation 8 of the DOI Office of Inspector General Final Audit Report “Department of the Interior’s Management of Land Boundaries” No. C-IN-MOA-0001-2009 (July 16, 2010), and the supplemental response by the Assistant Secretary – Land and Minerals Management (ASLM) (August 6, 2010) (OIG Report).

How does the SBE work?

The SBE takes the complex work of management of land boundaries and breaks it down into the basic practical and legal components for efficient risk assessment.  The SBE uses expertise of field and program managers, realty and resource specialists, transaction and project managers, and land surveyors working in a collaborative manner.  Land tenure professionals work together and report their boundary evidence findings via standardized and formalized documentation, known as the SBE, to assist DOI bureaus and offices in meeting their management of land boundaries responsibilities and obligations.

Who will benefit?

The bureaus and offices, members of the public and commercial entities will benefit.  The SBE will minimize delays, potential for conflicts, and other costs caused by erroneous or ambiguous land descriptions; ancient, antiquated, or obliterated land boundaries; and/or conflicting boundaries or use.  The SBE’s timely documentation of the location of the boundaries could affect a transaction by decreasing bureau, public, and commercial entity costs.

For acquisitions of new lands, we have Department of Justice Title Standards; why have SBE, too?

Title Standards seek to identify and eliminate title defects.  Surveys perform the same functions with respect to boundary defects that may cloud title.  The SBE helps to identify when a land survey is not necessary for a successful land and resource transaction.

Will every transaction and resource transaction have to go through the SBE process?

The SBE are mandatory for acquisitions; for transactions more than $10,000 in value and less than 1/4 mile from a boundary; in an area represented in a protraction diagram; or located against a body of water, unless a waiver has been issued by a designated bureau official.  A waiver of the SBE process may be issued on either a case-by-case or programmatic basis.  Such waiver will document the justification for the waiver and remain in the case file(s), or other appropriate record.

How is/are the value of land/resources transactions determined?

The Authorized Officer (AO) will estimate the value of the land/resource transaction(s) based on analyzing the market rates for resources and lands to determine their values.  In addition, the AO may use commercial project income estimates and non-resource factors, such as aesthetic value, wildlife habitat, etc., to determine the proper value for any given transaction.  The following is a non-exclusive list of considerations that may contribute to a determination of value; rent for a right-of-way, boundary location, the cost of materials, and labor for fence building or fire rehabilitation, species inventory, planning meetings for the project, boundary dispute resolution, publication cost, maintenance trips, upkeep, etc.

Why is the threshold for a transaction $10,000?

Given limited resources, we cannot examine all transactions.  The $10,000 threshold exists to ensure analysis of the high revenue/value cases and manage the workload.

How do we know that a $10,000 threshold will generate a manageable number of cases?

Evidence presented in the OIG Report suggests that $10,000 is an appropriate threshold amount for a significant transaction.  The OIG reports that 50 percent of all Public Land Survey System (PLSS) boundaries for Federal interest lands have fair to high reliability, meaning that we have surveyed the land since 1910.  We will therefore likely be able to handle cases involving these boundaries using only records of these particular boundaries.  Experience has shown that only 50 percent or fewer of transactions may require field verification.

What is provided?

We provide to the AO, SBE Certificate(s), compiled by a DOI Land Surveyor or a Certified Federal Surveyor (CFedS) and approved by a Certified DOI Land Surveyor (CILS).  The SBE Certificates are a management tool for AOs.  The SBE Certificates are not a land survey.  They are a non-survey alternative bureaus and offices use to determine the sufficiency of the boundary evidence for the intended purpose.  The SBE Certificate(s) addresses the risk associated with the transaction caused by erroneous, misrepresented, or ambiguous land descriptions, ancient, antiquated, or obliterated boundaries, and conflicting boundaries or use, excluding those only determined by a land survey.

What is new?

The standardization of existing work processes and formalized documentation establishes the new work product.  The type of work is not new, but the systematization of the business processes is new.  The SBE is a compilation of best practices taken from DOI bureaus and offices.

Who is responsible for a sound and efficient transaction?

The AO is in charge and ultimately responsible for a sound and efficient transaction and the outcome.  The SBE provides, in many cases, more efficient and cost-effective tools than a land survey to accomplish the transaction in the most efficient manner, while minimizing risks associated with boundary identification and management.

Will the SBE mean I never need a land survey?

No.  The SBE Certificate(s) may describe higher risks to the transaction than a prudent AO will want to assume.  After consultation with your surveyor about what the limitations in the certificate(s) mean and your knowledge of the intended transaction, you may decide that there is a need to know more details that can only be revealed by a land survey.  In some transactions, the need for unambiguous land description or corner and boundary markers will require further investigation or a land survey.

If I know I just want a land survey will I have to go through the standards process?

No.  The AO can still request a land survey.  However, the surveyor, based upon research conducted prior to every land survey, may provide the AO with a less costly or faster solution, e.g., SBE Certificate(s).

But if I have a land survey, how will an SBE benefit me?

The SBE provides a tool for your surveyor to review land surveys.  The SBE Certificate(s) can alert you to transaction risks associated with such land surveys.

How will the SBE benefit bureaus and offices, and land and resource Authorized Officers?

The SBE provides a standardized process and documentation for the exchange of information between bureaus and offices, and AOs (those who deal with the “what” and “who” of the transaction) and the boundary experts (those who deal with the “where” of the transaction).  We train surveyors to identify latent ambiguities in land descriptions, land surveys, and boundary encroachments.  Surveyors interpret land descriptions, land survey records, and use and compare them with title records and the physical conditions on-the-ground to guard against potentially costly ambiguities and unauthorized use of lands, e.g., encroachments, unauthorized uses, and/or trespassing.

Why should I have a surveyor supplement a Certificate of Inspection and Possession (CIP)?

A surveyor brings the unique knowledge combination of title records, land survey records, and physical boundary evidence.  Surveyors distinguish between ownership corner markers and spurious boundary markers.  For example, in many cases, the surveyor can, after a records research, determine by physical inspection whether a fence or other use or occupancy line is the true boundary or is sufficient for the intended purpose of the transaction.

What is a SBE Certificate?

The SBE Certificate is a management tool for AOs.  The SBE Certificate is not a land survey.  It is a non-survey alternative bureaus and offices use to determine if the boundary evidence is sufficient for the intended transaction.  There are three types of SBE Certificates:  (1) Land Surveyor Report (LSR), (2) Certificate of Inspection and Possession (CIP), and (3) Boundary Assurance Certificate (BAC).

How is a SBE Certificate prepared?

The SBE Certificate is prepared from information gained by a diligent search of land descriptions, title related records, previous land surveys, and survey related records, maps, aerial photographs, physical inspection, and other controlling evidence pertaining to the condition and certainty of the location of boundaries.  Evidence may include records and/or physical evidence that disclose the location of the surrounding property boundaries and may contain a sufficient summary of the material facts for the purpose of authenticating or not authenticating various boundary locations, including exceptions, reservations, subject to, caveats, reversions, or objections to specific portions of the boundary location(s).  A field visit may be required to identify existing physical evidence of the location of the parcel boundary.

Is a SBE a land survey?

No.  While it is true that the SBE process cannot furnish the kind of detail that would be available through a land survey, it is a reasoned and examined opinion based on the available records and evidence, providing an estimation of the risk from the condition of the boundary(s) involved in managing transactions.

Will Stakeholders, Commercial Entities, and the Public be misled?

The SBE Certificate is not a land survey and does not satisfy the needs that a land survey fulfills.  The SBE Certificate can quantify and qualify the risk associated with transactions and resource activities related to boundary location.  The SBE Certificates are kept on file permanently for future reference.

What is the estimated cost savings?

By maximizing the limited and specialized expertise of surveyors, the savings will be significant.  Not only are savings likely to be realized in management of land boundaries costs similar to those estimated to result from the implementation of the Standards for Indian Trust Lands Boundary Evidence (303 DM 7), but the potential savings in avoidance of conflicts over boundaries could also be significant.  In addition, there is potential for recovering millions of dollars in revenue from unauthorized use of rights-of-way and/or the unauthorized extraction of oil, gas, or other valuable minerals.

Where is the increased capacity?

The SBE allows DOI to increase its land survey services capacity without sacrificing quality.

Can the SBE process be changed?

Yes.  We can amend the SBE process as experience teaches us how to improve it.

Who bears the cost for the SBE process?

The program, commercial entity, or land owner requesting the work is responsible for the cost.  We will estimate the costs associated with preparation of the LSSR and SBE Certificate(s) in accordance with cost recovery regulations and establish special accounts to benefit the activity or the commercial entity(s).  We will use special accounts to cover the costs when appropriate.

Land and resource transactions are often described by aliquot parts.  What happens if the transaction is located in a township with a Protraction Diagram?

Protraction Diagrams are a plan of survey, not an actual land survey.  By policy, you may not subdivide a protracted block.  For more details, contact your DOI Land Surveyor.

What do I do if I am uncertain of the transaction boundary or land description?

Consult with your DOI Land Surveyor.