BOX 4.1

The National Integrated Land System (NILS)

The National Integrated Land System (NILS) is a joint project between the BLM and the USDA Forest Service in partnership with the states, counties, and private industry to provide business solutions for the management of cadastral records and land parcel information in a geographic information system (GIS) environment.

NILS provides a process to collect, maintain, and store parcel-based land and survey information that meets the common, shared business needs of land title and land resource management. The NILS project is being developed in four modules: Survey Management (S), Measurement Management (M), Parcel Management (P), and GeoCommunicator (G).

NILS provides the user with tools to manage land records and cadastral data in a “Field-to-Fabric” manner. The user can use field survey measurement data directly from the survey measuring equipment, manipulate these data into lines and points, and create legal land and parcel descriptions to be used in mapping and land record maintenance.

NILS has unified the worlds of surveying and GIS. This unification process is fundamental for land records managers and maintainers of cadastral mapping databases to improve the accuracy and quality of the data, to create standard land descriptions and cadastral data that can be used by anyone.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) GIS technology forms the foundation of NILS. Based on industry standards, including the Common Object Model (COM) and object-oriented (OO) technology, the software provides a modern development platform for NILS. Object-oriented software engineering techniques will be used to extend the COTS to meet the specific needs of NILS users.

SOURCE: NILS website,

Federal Lands Parcel Data

From an operational point of view the most visible federal government parcel data activity is the National Integrated Land System (NILS). BLM and the U.S. Forest Service are jointly developing NILS as a seamless representation of federally managed lands (see Box 4.1). The primary purpose of NILS is to “automate the BLM cadastral surveying and land records business rules in a geographic information system (GIS) environment. The integration of surveying and GIS provides land managers with a complete field-to-fabric technology solution.”2 The technical innovations of NILS are discussed in Chapter 2. Currently, it is in a prototype phase and a limited set of federal parcel data is accessible through the GeoCommunicator component of NILS. GeoCommunicator is being used to provide a web-based query and discovery tool for general access to U.S. Forest Service property that is available for sale (Figure 4.1).

BLM also carries out other duties related to parcel data. It is responsible for surveying Indian lands, which is described further in Section 4.2. Because of the need for high-quality survey information and the special survey needs on tribal lands, BLM has initiated the Certified Federal Surveyor program. This will ensure that land surveyors performing surveys for tribes understand the special requirements of federal lands and tribal lands surveys. BLM has ongoing responsibilities for the PLSS and for the GCDB. The GCDB contains digital geographic information for the PLSS, and is computed from BLM survey records (official plats and field notes), local survey records, and geodetic control information. The GCDB was started in 1989 and currently includes approximately three-quarters of the townships in 10 western states and more than 300 townships east of the Mis-


See [accessed February 15, 2007].

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