ously. The challenge is to clearly distinguish this program from the others and to highlight how this approach is more likely to succeed.

Private Sector Seen to Benefit at Expense of Local Governments

Many firms in the private sector are assembling parcel data for large parts of the country. These firms use parcel data to drive business applications or to provide better address matching (geocoding) services. Others are building real estate applications or serving as wholesale aggregators of land parcel data. While some of these firms provide revenue to local governments, there is widespread perception that they are simply harvesting data created by local governments for commercial gain, as the following quote from the stakeholder feedback illustrates.

It kills me when the private sector can make a fortune of a database that I have worked on for years. (Comment from web forum: James Myers, GIS Technician, Sedgwick County Court House, Kansas)

Some local governments will lose revenue from licensing fees if local data are available through a national system. Many local governments currently charge third parties for the use of their parcel data. In some cases, these charges are nominal and simply cover the cost of duplication. In others, the charges can be quite high because they are intended to recoup prior investments in expensive systems or even to be a source of revenue. For example, Dallas County, Texas, offers its digital parcel data for $50,000 and Nassau County, New York, sells its data for $40,000. These local governments may view a national parcel database as a “giveaway” to private companies and others who currently purchase the data directly from them.

Local Political Realities

Very few elected county commissioners and others who approve budgets have a strong background in technology, let alone geospatial technology. This makes it challenging for them to evaluate budget requests for technical items, especially when it involves funding the sharing and distribution of local government assets. A large budget request for a parcel conversion project therefore faces greater scrutiny and skepticism because the outcome cannot be foreseen. Clearly there must be significant financial incentives or state regulations to gain the participation of many local governments.


There are many unique challenges to creating a national parcel layer for Indian Country. These challenges can be divided into four areas: legal, political, social, and the juxtaposition between the tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Legal and Policy Challenges

Many legal challenges affect the availability of parcel information in Indian Country. The primary area of concern is Code of Federal Regulations 25 Chapter 24 Section 2216, which sets restrictions on the availability of land ownership information. Technically the BIA or a tribe is not allowed to release this information. At this time special clearance is needed by users to access this database. A trust database has been set up by the Department of the Interior Special Trustee’s office. The system for accessing and inputting information is called Trust Asset and Accounting

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