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Map Layer Info

Public Land Survey System of the United States

What this map layer shows:

The Public Land Survey System boundaries to the township level.
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Background Information
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The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for regulating and maintaining the PLSS.

The PLSS was begun shortly after the Revolutionary War, when the Federal government became responsible for large areas west of the Thirteen Original Colonies. The transfer of this Federal land to private citizens became an urgent matter for several reasons: land had been promised to the impoverished soldiers of the Continental Army for their service, the indebted Government needed to tap the land's potential to provide sorely needed revenue, and the land held great promise for the future of the young Nation. Because of these pressing concerns, the Government needed a methodical process for dividing the western frontier among the people it served.

In response to this need, the U.S. Congress adopted the system of surveys that became what we know as the PLSS. In the western United States, the PLSS is the basis for most land transfers and ownership today. Land management agencies use the PLSS to describe legal land locations. Federal agencies involved in surface and mineral management require the use of PLSS terminology in their day-to-day actions. Additionally, many agencies dealing with natural resource or environmental databases use PLSS boundaries for georeferencing.

The PLSS is a rectangular survey system that typically divides the land into 6-mile square townships, which are further subdivided into 1-mile square sections. This map layer, compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, contains PLSS boundaries to the township level. The PLSS is found in the following States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In the National Atlas Map Maker, the PLSS information will not be displayed until the map is zoomed in to show an area approximately 400 miles wide or less. For further historical information and for data to the section level and beyond, see the BLM Land Survey Information System page.



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