iDRY Vacuum Kilns


Is the general public familiar with public land survey system?

Started by bigtrees, May 28, 2018, 01:58:06 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Curiosity question.

How familiar do you think the general public is with reading legal descriptions of where a parcel is located, with respect to the public land survey system?

For example, if you walked up to a random joe on the street, gave him a map, and said "please locate where the E 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 8, T15N, R20W", would they be able to find it? Or would they look at you with a deer in the headlight look?

When I was in high school, we spent one day learning about it during our natural science course. My science teacher was retired from the Forest Service though and I don't think it's standard. My impression is that the majority of people are not very familiar with the PLSS system.


I'm a surveyor, but on the east, and only nominally familiar with the western system. I could figure it out, but that's what I do. As far as eastern surveying goes, most people only have an inkling of what's involved, and they usually think it's much easier than it is.


Quote from: lxskllr on May 28, 2018, 02:37:00 PM
I'm a surveyor, but on the east, and only nominally familiar with the western system. I could figure it out, but that's what I do. As far as eastern surveying goes, most people only have an inkling of what's involved, and they usually think it's much easier than it is.
Can you clarify eastern versus western? Are you saying that you don't do quarter sections and quarter-quarter sections, etc in the east?

I have never spent much time over there and wasn't aware it is different.

WV Sawmiller

   Probably about as many who know the whole country has been photographed from the air and that you can buy a copy of yours from the USDA. If you don't have a copy of your aerial photograph it would be worth your time to go look at it and likely buy the ones of your area. You can spot hidden terrain features hard to notice on the ground.

   My son and I once used ours for him to show me exactly in which tree on a ridgeline where he had roosted 3 wild turkeys while bow hunting our place during a Fall turkey season. I got up before daylight the next morning, went to the exact spot and shamelessly shot one off the roost as soon as it was legal shooting light.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2011 4WD F150 Ford Lariat PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Stihl 440 Chainsaw, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once


Quote from: bigtrees on May 28, 2018, 02:55:49 PM
Are you saying that you don't do quarter sections and quarter-quarter sections, etc in the east?

Correct. There's no overall layout of land. Everything's a metes and bounds description, or a platted subdivision, and is only locally relevant. To start a job, you'd pull the deeds(perhaps going back many years/transfers) or plats, then go to the field to find evidence of property. When you start, there's no sure point to go from. You collect evidence from your property, as well as adjoining properties, then see what kind of sense you can make of it. There's few sure things, especially with older properties, and reasonable people can disagree over particulars, but unless something is very wrong, surveyors will agree on the stated location, and accept a surveyor's findings.


In Maine you do see Township and Range labeling in some unorganized areas, they have to do with historical purchases and are labeled as such including WELS, (West of the Easterly Line of the State), NBKP (North of Binghams Kennebec Purchase), etc. all 6 mile x 6 mile townships, unless it is actually a Gore in which case it was what was left over when the lines were drawn and those can be all sorts of shapes. 

That being said in most of the rest of the state it's meets and bounds including stone walls, pins in the ground and even some witness trees now and then.  
Franklin buncher and skidder
JD Processor
Woodmizer LT Super 70 and LT35 sawmill, KD250 kiln, BMS 250 sharpener and setter
Riehl Edger
Woodmaster 725 and 4000 planner and moulder
Enough cows to ensure there is no spare time.
White Oak Meadows


I know exactly where all of my property boundary markers are.  The legal descriptions are recorded and described on all of my tax notices but other than that, I have never felt the "need to know".
Knothole Sawmill, LLC     '98 Wood-Mizer LT40SuperHydraulic   WM Million BF Club Member   WM Pro Sawyer Network

It's Weird being the Same Age as Old People

Never allow your "need" to make money to exceed your "desire" to provide quality service.....The Magicman


I don't think most people have a clue and won't even worry about it until they buy land and maybe not much then.

Doesn't appear that the people who drew town maps in many NH towns had much clue.
The state publishes 'hunting' maps on the internet with land boundaries printed on them with corners that don't meet and off by 100+ feet.
MS193, MS192 and an 026  Weeding and Thinning. Gilbert Champion sawmill


I think less, than more, know about the PLS system in general.
Its truly an amazing system,  Give the State, Principle Meridian and the balance such as in the OP "E 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 8, T15N, R20W"    
and you have a unique parcel of land.


The older Colonial states are true metes and bounds systems, some with early attempts
to divide by rectangular systems.  The Holland Land Co in NY started such a system
and divided by township and range the westerly side of NY.


Locally the land is usually surveyed more to match the terrain. Some areas were laid out on a "grid" originally, but that led to things like our family farm. Had a road through the middle, and 3 fields on the other side of the river. The river then wound back and forwards across the boundary line, and we technically owned 1/2 acre patches on the other side, and visa versa. The other 1/2 of the farm was on a different survey, and the boundary basically followed the river. Not straight, but at least sensible to put a fence on. 

All the survey info is now online, so you can zoom in a locate any title. Not "Survey" accurate maybe, but pretty good when overlaid with a satellite picture. 
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)


In general, I'd say the public is clueless about legal descriptions.  I grew up with a plat map on the coffee table and have half a clue.  I can find someplace that way if I focus on it, and do sometimes looking up ancestors farms related to my wife's geneology research.  Even then, for me, it's like multivariate calculus to get through it.

When I need to know boundaries now, our county has lines overlaid on an aerial map.  

I'll also add, that I don't think the general public cares or even wants to know unless something is happening on "their" side of the lines.
In the long run, you make your own luck – good, bad, or indifferent. Loretta Lynn


maple flats

I sure have no clue about any systems or methods other than what is used in Central NY. Here I have actually done the tedious work of making sense of the deed for property I bought on a tax sale that was comprised of several smaller parcels lost due to non payment of taxes dating back to the 1930's and also the lands of a former single track railroad. I first took it to an abstract company who said it would be near impossible without hundreds of hours research to figure it all out. This was only a parcel of just over 12 acres.
With that I decided I'd do it myself as I had time. It took me about 14 months and likely 100 hours going thru old deeds at the county seat. The descriptions contained descriptors like "the old stump near Joe Burris' hay field" or the old hay wagon beside the ditch. I had to go back thru some deeds as far as 1825. In the end, I was able to take my research to a surveyor who surveyed the parcel and as was my original intent, I sold it with a Warranty Deed at a nice profit, even considering my time and expenses.
I recently had to do similar on another group of parcels and the research is now much faster because the whole town has been put on computer. Now I simply had to state the tax map numbers, enter them in the computer at the county seat and I got all deeds related to that parcel going way back to the early 1800's, then I clicked on any deed reference and that deed appeared on the screen. If I wanted a copy, I just printed it and the county clerk charged me $1.50/ page. Had that been available back in the 80's when I did my original search it would have been way quicker.
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed, Woodland Mills HM130Max , maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Thank You Sponsors!