Conclusions and Recommendations
The final element of the committee’s charge was to develop a strategy for achieving the vision described in Chapter 6, including the role of the federal government, and accounting for the challenges to be overcome. Since the federal government manages more than a quarter of the land within the United States and has the greatest need for data that cross jurisdictional boundaries, it is appropriate for it to take a leadership role. The federal government is also the only entity with the authority and purview to coordinate such a program. At the same time, it is neither feasible nor appropriate for the federal government to produce data for the millions of private property parcels. These data can only be accurately maintained by local governments that require them to support their normal daily business functions.
A series of federal mandates and policy statements that span more than a century provide plenty of precedents for the federal government to assume a proactive role in the coordination of relevant geospatial data. Clearly Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-16 and more recently the Geospatial Line of Business (GLoB) actually mandate that the federal government take a leadership position. OMB has specifically identified cadastral data and federal land ownership information as critical geospatial data themes. Unfortunately, the federal government has never developed a coordinated approach to parcel data, which are different from other framework data layers. Parcel data are produced and maintained by a large number of state, tribal, and local government entities. This shifts the federal role from one of production to coordination. Therefore, in order to provide effective leadership the federal government must adopt a radically different approach to intergovernmental relationships that has a focus on partnerships.
In Chapter 5 the committee has attempted to provide an honest assessment of the real challenges that will have to be addressed for a national land parcel data program to become a reality. On the other hand, there are numerous examples in which the private sector and several states have successfully overcome these issues. Probably the most difficult challenge will be establishing workable partnerships among local, state, and federal organizations. The committee is optimistic about the possibility of developing these partnerships for the following reasons:
The federal government has been taking steps to organize its geospatial data efforts, led by OMB.
The federal government understands the need for large-scale parcel data that can only come from local governments.
The proposed Imagery for the Nation program would provide valuable incentives to local governments.
The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is an extremely viable organization and has worked with the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to establish the Fifty States Initiative.
The private sector has very recently been creating sets of parcel data throughout the country for the location-based services industry.
Homeland security and emergency response issues have taken on heightened importance and require parcel data for effective operations.
Although these points show that necessary progress is being made and awareness of the need for parcel data has been growing, there are still many challenges. In order to overcome the issues listed in Chapter 5 and achieve the vision outlined in Chapter 6, the committee offers specific critical recommendations. Most of the recommendations address organizational issues so that the basic organizational framework needed to build national data can be established. Two recommendations are related to funding that will address the financial and many of the political issues. Once the basic framework is set up, it will then be the responsibility of the various coordinators to start resolving the technical and legal issues discussed in Chapter 5.
Issue 1. The need to clarify and enforce federal agency responsibilities for land parcel-related geospatial data under OMB Circular A-16.
OMB Circular A-16 requires the federal government to establish the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and authorizes the FGDC to provide appropriate leadership. This requirement includes the assignment of custodial responsibility for different NSDI framework geospatial data layers. The NSDI specifically mandates that the federal government has a key responsibility to create and maintain geospatial representations for both federal land ownership status and cadastral information. The interpretation of how these two themes are defined and how they are being implemented is critical to this study. According to Circular A-16, federal land ownership status includes the “establishment and maintenance of a system for the storage and dissemination of information describing all title, estate or interest of the federal government in a parcel of real and mineral property. The ownership status system is the portrayal of title for all such federal estates or interests in land” (OMB, 2002).
In the context of the modern E-Government strategy outlined in the recent OMB GLoB, this definition of federal land ownership status would logically mandate an inventory and geographic representation of land managed by the federal government. According to the vision laid out in Chapter 6 such an inventory should be consolidated into a single federal agency and be managed by a federal land parcel coordinator with an appropriate team.
In a similar manner the cadastral framework NSDI layer is defined by Circular A-16 as “the geographic extent of past, current, and future right, title, and interest in real property, and the framework to support the description of that geographic extent. The geographic extent includes survey and description frameworks such as the Public Land Survey System, as well as parcel-by-parcel surveys and descriptions” (OMB, 2002). Again, the interpretation of this description is critical to this study. The committee found ample evidence that the intent of federal agency stewardship for
any NSDI data layer extends to all levels of government including tribes. Therefore, the inclusion of cadastral data as an NSDI framework layer is significant evidence that the federal government recognizes the need to coordinate parcel data from all sources, not just federal property boundaries. The committee believes that stewardship of the cadastre framework data should be handled by a national land parcel coordinator. This function is distinct from that of the federal land parcel coordinator, in that it will address the development of nationally integrated land parcel data from all land managers, whether public or private. This individual and his or her team should manage a program that integrates parcel data from all levels of government. The committee believes that such a program would address the programmatic needs of the various federal agencies. It also believes that numerous federal E-Government initiatives such as the Federal Enterprise Architecture promote and actually require such a proactive approach to intergovernmental data coordination. In other words, the committee believes that all the necessary authority and precedents already exist to implement its vision for a national program for parcel data. Furthermore, the existing U.S. Geological Survey National Map and the Geospatial One-Stop programs could facilitate the discovery, visualization, and distribution of parcel data.
The question does not appear to be whether the federal government has the need, resources, or authority to implement a national parcel data program, but rather whether it has the motivation and incentives to confront difficult institutional and financial obstacles. Therefore the debate is whether these parcel-oriented designations under OMB Circular A-16 are meaningful. In many ways the Government Accountability Office (GAO) answered the question in its 2004 report Geospatial Information: Better Coordination Needed to Identify and Reduce Duplicative Investments (GAO, 2004). This report draws the following conclusions (GAO, 2004, pp. 7-8):
OMB, cross-government committees, and individual federal agencies have taken actions to coordinate geospatial investments across agencies and with state and local governments. However, these efforts have not been fully successful for several reasons:
A complete and up-to-date strategic plan is missing. The existing strategic plan for coordinating national geospatial resources and activities is out of date and lacks specific measures for identifying and reducing redundancies.
Federal agencies are not consistently complying with OMB direction to coordinate their investments.
OMB’s oversight methods have not been effective in identifying or eliminating instances of duplication. This has resulted from OMB not collecting consistent, key investment information from all agencies. Consequently, agencies continue to independently acquire and maintain potentially duplicative systems. This costly practice is likely to continue unless coordination is significantly improved.
Federal response in the aftermath of hurricane events demonstrates that federal funds are being spent for parcel data without proper coordination. Therefore, the committee agrees with the general analysis of the GAO that Circular A-16 is not being fully implemented and believes that the issues relating to parcel data are further exacerbated by the lack of clout or incentives to deal with difficult intergovernmental relationships.
In order to move forward with a national vision for parcel data it is essential to establish clear and unambiguous authority within the federal bureaucracy. The proper starting place would be to analyze the existing OMB A-16, FGDC, and NSDI related documents that appear to have designated the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be both the federal and the national land parcel coordinators. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that BLM has been performing many of the tasks associated with these roles. For example, it has fostered the development of an accepted standard for parcel data, surveyed the current status of parcel data, and identified best practices. It has also spearheaded the effort to create the National Integrated Land System and the Geographic Coordinate Data Base.
Based on mission statements and programs, the BLM is one organizational choice to house both the federal land parcel coordinator and the national land parcel coordinator. However, there are other candidate agencies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could be directed to establish national land parcel data under the assumption that they are needed for homeland security. The General Services Administration (GSA) is the largest public real estate organization in the country. Its Office of Real Property Asset Management provides services for all federal agencies and has an inventory of more than 342 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees in 2,100 American communities. Other federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Census Bureau do not manage land but deal heavily with property issues and thus need parcel data to accomplish their missions effectively. However, the exact organizational location and responsibilities of these two coordinators needs to be determined by a review of the current OMB Circular A-16 mandates and an assessment of various agencies’ missions and capabilities to house the coordinators.
Conclusions. Effective federal leadership for coordination of parcel data is needed, both in terms of federal land ownership (federal land parcel coordinator) and cadastral data provided by nonfederal agencies (national land parcel coordinator). BLM has been given responsibilities in both of these capacities and has engaged in several meaningful efforts to address these tasks, but it has not been successful in developing either federal or national land parcel data. It was beyond the scope and purview of this committee to determine which federal agency could best carry out the federal and national parcel data coordination activities; however, these designations must be assessed and clearly stated, and appropriate budget and authority must be assigned if the nation is to achieve a national land parcel data program. Therefore, the committee makes the following recommendation as a way for this decision to be made.
RECOMMENDATION 1. In order to achieve nationally integrated land parcel data, there should be both a federal land parcel coordinator and a national land parcel coordinator. A panel should be established to determine whether BLM has the necessary and sufficient authority and capacity to serve as the federal and/or national land parcel coordinator, and if not, either it should be given the authority and resources, or some other agency should be named. The panel should conduct a review of BLM’s existing stewardship responsibilities for cadastral and federal land ownership status under OMB Circular A-16, as well as its current legislative authorities and budget priorities.
Issue 2. Clarification of the role of parcel data in the representation of buildings, cultural features, governmental units, and housing.
The committee believes that several FGDC data themes other than cadastre and federal land status are closely linked with parcel data. For example, it is standard practice in local government to use parcel-based data to either create or associate most information relating to structures, housing, and governmental units. The committee believes that if a national parcel program existed, the federal government could use the parcel data in the development and/or representation of the following themes (theme coordinator is noted in parentheses).
Buildings and Facilities (GSA): Buildings and facilities must rest on a parcel of land that has an owner, value, and use.
Cultural Resources (National Park Service): Cultural features such as archeological sites are located on land parcels. The ownership of that land has a direct impact on access to and use of those sites.
Governmental Units (U.S. Census Bureau): Because of events such as annexations, the boundaries of incorporated areas are not fixed over time. Many local governments track annexations on the basis of parcels and are required by state law to submit plat maps or tax maps to identify jurisdictional boundaries. Governments issue business licenses and collect sales taxes based on the location of a parcel.
Housing (HUD): According to the FGDC “HUD’s database maintains geographic data on homeownership rates, including many attributes such as HUD revitalization zones, location of various forms of housing assistance, first-time homebuyers, underserved areas, and race. Data standards have not yet been formalized” (OMB, 2002). HUD has recognized that parcels are critical to tracking information about housing units and is experimenting with parcel data along the Gulf Coast.
Conclusions. The committee believes that land parcels are closely linked to other FGDC data themes such as Buildings and Facilities, Cultural Resources, Governmental Units, and Housing. Therefore, there should be a systematic review of how these themes would be managed if a national parcel data program existed.
RECOMMENDATION 2. As part of the Geospatial Line of Business process, the FGDC should identify the role of parcel data in the collection and maintenance of the following data themes: Buildings and Facilities, Cultural Resources, Governmental Units, and Housing.
Issue 3. The need for the federal government to maintain an inventory of its own property.
The federal government is the single largest land manager in the nation. However, despite numerous attempts, there is no single inventory of federal real property assets. In fact, the absence of such an inventory is one of the high-risk activities of the government, as identified by the GAO (2005). In testimony before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on March 2, 2005, then-Interior Secretary Gail Norton said that “the Department currently uses 26 different financial management systems and over 100 different property systems” (Norton, 2005). Furthermore, many of the existing inventories lack the geographic coordinates of boundaries and cannot be directly incorporated into a modern geographic information system (GIS) environment. Several times, Congress has called for inventories of federal lands; however, these have often been single-purpose, single-agency requirements. For example, Section 201 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1711) requires that the Secretary of the Interior prepare and maintain a continuing inventory of public lands, including their boundaries. Further programs have called for inventories of forest and agricultural lands, abandoned mines, wetlands, and endangered species’ habitat.
There is evidence that the current administration is also interested in conducting an inventory of federal lands. For example, Executive Order 13327 issued February 4, 2004, calls for the creation of “a single, comprehensive, and descriptive database of all real property under the custody and control of all executive branch agencies.” However, there appear to be limitations on this requirement that would exclude public lands and not require geographic coordinates for the boundaries. The latest debate on this issue is encapsulated in the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act (H.R. 1370, 109th Congress), which was introduced in 2005.1
Conclusions. A national vision for land parcel data must include the delineation of the 30 percent of the land area (about 650 million acres) that is managed by the federal government (GAO, 1996, p. 2). There is considerable pressure to complete and maintain such a geographically refer-
See http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-1370 [accessed February 15, 2007].
enced inventory that would be an integral part of the National Land Parcel Data system. There are major benefits to be realized from a single, geographically registered database that would replace the various inventories currently maintained by numerous federal agencies. The committee believes that such an inventory is mandated as part of the FGDC designation of Federal Land Ownership Status as part of the NSDI under the stewardship of BLM.
RECOMMENDATION 3. The Federal Land Parcel Coordinator should coordinate the development and maintenance of a single, comprehensive, and authoritative geographically referenced database for land parcels managed by the federal government, including public lands. This database should include the ownership, area, and use of all federally managed lands.
Issue 4. The need for a formal business plan for parcel coordination.
The cadastre is identified under OMB Circular A-16 as one of the seven framework layers for the NSDI. In fact, the cadastral layer explicitly includes parcels. Other than naming BLM the lead agency for the cadastre framework there is no coordinated federal program for parcel data. The committee believes that it is essential that such a program be created and that it operate in an efficient and accountable manner. For the program to be successful it would need clearly defined goals and milestones. The committee believes that the FGDC Subcommittee for Cadastral Data’s Parcel Management Program Business Plan Template can serve as a roadmap for establishing and monitoring a national land parcel data program. It outlines the following stages that include milestones and outcomes (FGDC Subcommittee for Cadastral Data, 2006b, p. 3):
Initial Collection and Conversion is the phase where landownership, parcel or survey data are first automated.
Maintenance is the phase where landownership, parcel and survey data are kept current and updated as transactions occur.
Local Publication and Distribution is the phase where cadastral information is made available to all potential users and applications.
Regional or Statewide Integration occurs when the published data from available counties or other producers is compiled into a statewide or regional coverage.
These steps present a logical progression and constitute a well-constructed business model that has been adopted by several states and could readily be adapted to a national effort.
However, the national coordinator will also have to specifically resolve the technical and legal issues outlined in Chapter 5. As mentioned earlier, there are generally examples where the technical issues have been overcome on a smaller scale. It will be the task of the national coordinator to seek out the potential resolutions for these issues and apply them to the national data through establishment of standards or promotion of best practices. The FGDC Subcommittee for Cadastral Data has already proven to be a very effective forum for working on these types of issues and could continue to act in that role. Similarly, the national coordinator will have to facilitate the resolution of the legal issues related to data sharing, licensing, and liability in order to successfully implement nationally integrated land parcel data.
Conclusions. In order to create trust among the stakeholders a national program for parcel data should embrace a comprehensive and accountable business plan. Proven benchmarks and metrics
for assessing progress have been developed by the FGDC Subcommittee for Cadastral Data. The national coordinator will need to address the technical and legal issues outlined in this report in order to effectively establish nationally integrated land parcel data.
RECOMMENDATION 4. The National Land Parcel Coordinator should develop and oversee a land parcel data business plan for the nation. This plan should serve as the basis for evaluation of the program and as a model for state and local governments. Metrics should be based on the FGDC Parcel Management Program Business Plan Template.
Issue 5. The federal government needs to maintain an inventory of tribal trust land; however there are unique issues and requirements associated with tribal trust parcels.
The federal government is required to map Indian lands in order to carry out various activities, as described in numerous acts, policies, and Department of the Interior manuals such as the following.
The American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-412; 108 Stat. 4239; 25 U.S.C. 4001 et seq.; AITFRA) assigns the Secretary of the Interior the responsibility of “appropriately managing natural resources located on reservations and trust lands.”
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (P.L. 91-190; 83 Stat. 852; 42 U.S.C. 4321; NEPA) requires “federal agencies to consult with tribes and interested persons/organizations when Indian lands may be affected.”
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-579; 90 Stat. 2743; 43 U.S.C. 1701; FLPMA) directs BLM to integrate Native American concerns into land use planning.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) manual 512 DM section 2.1 states: “It is the policy of the Department of the Interior to recognize and fulfill its legal obligations to identify, protect, and conserve the trust resources of federally recognized Indian tribes and tribal members, and to consult with tribes on a government-to-government basis whenever plans or actions affect tribal trust resources, trust assets, or tribal health and safety.” It would be most tribes’ position that the DOI cannot fulfill its legal obligation to “identify and protect” tribal trust resource if the U.S. government does not first have those lands mapped.
Therefore, it is clearly the federal government’s trust responsibility to map tribal lands, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has mapped approximately 75 percent of Indian lands. However, as described in Chapter 5, there are numerous challenges associated with parcel mapping on Indian lands. Currently, parcel data are being maintained by multiple entities for tribal trust land. Those entities include private companies, BLM, BIA, tribes, and state and local governments. Current federal policy for Indian trust land is causing duplication of effort in mapping trust lands, primarily due to the current litigation of Cobell v. Kempthorne. In most cases, the parcel data maintained by individual tribes are the most accurate data available since the tribes have the most vested interests in accurately mapping their lands.
Conclusions. It is the federal government’s trust responsibility to map tribal trust lands. There are many issues unique to tribal trust parcels, which must be taken into consideration in development of nationally integrated land parcel data. Creation of a successful and useful parcel database for tribal trust parcels will require modifications of existing Indian trust mapping procedures and would have to involve consultation of each individual tribal and Native entity to complete.
RECOMMENDATION 5. The Office of the Special Trustee for Tribal lands should establish an Indian Lands Parcel Coordinator who would manage a program to coordinate and fund the development and maintenance of a geographically referenced database for Indian trust parcels. The data should then be made available to the National Land Parcel Coordinator to be integrated with national land parcel data.
Issue 6. The benefit of placing Census Bureau address data in the public domain.
The Census Bureau creates its own confidential Master Address File (MAF), which under the provisions of Title 13 of the United States Code it is not allowed to release to the public. For the 2010 Census, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars the Census Bureau is creating point-level representations of residential and business structures and associated street addresses (the modernization of Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing [TIGER] data and the mechanics of improving the address information were covered in depth in the National Research Council [NRC, 2004c] report Reengineering the 2010 Census: Risks and Challenges). Local governments are asked to review their portions of the MAF prior to the decennial census, but they cannot use that information to correct their own data sets and must destroy the MAF immediately after the review process. Consequently, many local governments choose not to participate in this system. As a result the GAO reported that for the 2000 Census there were
0.7 million duplicate addresses,
1.4 million housing units not included,
1.3 million housing units improperly deleted, and
5.6 million housing units incorrectly located on census maps (GAO, 2006c, p. 8).
It is only logical that information that is legally required to be visible cannot be private or confidential. With current technology such as global positioning systems or high-resolution ortho-photographs it is a very straightforward task to associate geographic coordinates for structures with street addresses that are prominently displayed on the door or a mailbox. In fact, package delivery companies associate geographic coordinates with addresses every day. This is done routinely without the permission or knowledge of the occupants. As described in earlier chapters, numerous private industry firms are also developing address point files. This issue has been discussed in earlier NRC reports, including the following from the report The 2000 Census: Counting Under Adversity (NRC, 2004b, p. 149):
The Bureau should also give serious consideration to providing localities with updated MAF files, which would not only facilitate continuous updating of the MAF for the Bureau’s purposes but would also provide a useful tool for local planning and analysis. An issue for concern would be that sharing of MAF files might violate the confidentiality of individuals—for example, by disclosing overcrowding of housing units in violation of local codes. However, our view is that the confidentiality issues could be resolved; street addresses do not, of themselves, identify information about individual residents or even indicate whether an address is occupied…. However, Title 13 of the U.S. Code would probably require amendment similar to the 1994 legislation that authorized LUCA [Local Update of Census Addresses], since U.S. Supreme Court precedent views the MAF as covered under Title 13 confidentiality provisions. There is national benefit in having an accurate address list for statistical uses that can be continuously maintained in a cost-effective manner.
One way to overcome concerns over privacy and confidentiality is to restrict sharing to information about the building itself. This could lead to significant benefits for many with no harm to anyone. The Census Bureau would be allowed only to provide address and coordinate information to the local government for structures listed in the MAF. No data about number of units or unit
identification numbers would be made public. In this open environment, local governments would be more likely to assist the Census Bureau with its Local Update of Census Addresses efforts. Local governments already have nearly all of the building addresses. However, if they do not have the associated geographic coordinate data, it could be of great benefit.
The U.S. government commitment to create new and greatly improved versions of streets, boundaries, and point addresses represents a landmark in the evolution of geospatial data for the United States. The committee believes that this investment of taxpayer dollars should be used to provide the maximum benefit of services to the public and private sector business opportunities. These new resources have direct bearing on the creation of parcel data. If national parcel data are to be successful, they must include a consistent and current set of street addresses that are linked to buildings and property. In addition, the new Census Bureau address points could serve as a temporary substitute for parcel boundary data and aid in their development. For example, in the State of Arkansas a county that does not have a polygon-based parcel data set may use the point-level data set as a starting point for its cadastral database. In such a system the local government could use these points to handle many of its business needs relating to real estate, planning and even emergency response (E911) related applications.
Finally, as described in Chapter 4, countries such as the United Kingdom have realized the extensive benefits of having a national geocoded address file along with land parcel data. Chapter 4 also described how, internationally, many countries view their digital land parcel data as a key element in supporting the administration of many of the operations needed by society, not just as an index for deeds and local government services. A national street address file in combination with land parcel data provides governments and society with powerful tools in a world that is becoming more and more centered on the organizing function of place or location.
Conclusions. A data set of street addresses assigned to a structure or group of structures could be used to create the skeleton of a parcel fabric anywhere in the United States. As part of its modernization program the Census Bureau will be releasing greatly improved TIGER street centerline files with address ranges. These files will be used to generate block and other boundaries. The additional step of releasing the address point locations could serve a multitude of uses and would have major economic benefits while not revealing confidential information about individuals. This combination of high-resolution geospatial resources generated to serve the needs of the Bureau of the Census would also accelerate the completion of nationally integrated land parcel data.
RECOMMENDATION 6. Congress and the Bureau of the Census should explore potential policy options, including modifications to Title 13, that would allow its digital data on building addresses and their geographical coordinates to be placed in the public domain while also maintaining important privacy protections. If publicly available, these street addresses and coordinates could be used to assist in the development of parcel data in areas where parcel data sets do not exist.
Issue 7. The need for state-level coordination of parcel data.
It is not feasible for the national land parcel coordinator to interact with the large number of counties, municipalities, regional bodies, school districts, and special districts in the United States that produce parcel data. Therefore, an intermediate level of coordination would have to be established, most logically at the state level. As described in Chapter 6, this type of arrangement can be described as a “Federation by Mandate” (Harvey and Tulloch, 2006). The committee views this parcel-oriented function as a logical component of the Fifty States Initiative. One of the goals of this initiative is to have state GIS coordinating councils in all 50 states that support the governance of
the NSDI. The NSGIC and the FGDC have been working together on this initiative as a significant partnership with purpose. In fact, “the FGDC requested that NSGIC take the lead on this objective since it represents the national “voice” of state coordination activities as they relate to geospatial technologies” (NSGIC, 2005, p. 2).
With respect to parcel data, the model would follow programs that have been implemented in several state revenue departments. Where available, parcel data produced by local government would be provided to the state. A central state office would produce parcel data for jurisdictions that are not actively producing parcel data. As a result, statewide parcel data coverage would be created and updated on a periodic basis. The state would also provide technical advice and support, enforce standards, help administer funding, and sustain parcel data management. It could also reconcile boundaries between local data sets. The state should develop a state parcel business plan to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the state parcel coordinator and define how land parcel data will be developed and integrated. The FGDC Subcommittee for Cadastral Data has developed a template for a state parcel business plan and associated metrics.2
It would also be beneficial for an official state parcel coordinator to work hand in hand with the Census Bureau’s Boundary and Annexation Survey program. In fact, the committee believes that it is not possible for the Census Bureau to accurately delineate incorporated and unincorporated places without parcel data. Therefore, the local government is in the best position to maintain a jurisdictional boundary file. This can be shared with the state government to support state mandates and then forwarded in digital format to the Census Bureau as needed.
Conclusions. Coordination at the state level is a necessary element of national land parcel data and could logically be a part of the Fifty States Initiative.
RECOMMENDATION 7. The National Land Parcel Coordinator should embrace the Fifty States Initiative and require that every state formally establish a state parcel coordinator. State coordinators should develop a parcel data business plan and manage the relationships among all levels of government involved in parcel production. The plan and program should achieve comprehensive border-to-border parcel coverage for all public and privately owned property within the state. The state parcel coordinator should either work with the state office responsible for the Census Bureau’s Boundary and Annexation program or with local government offices if a statewide program does not exist.
Issue 8. Coordination of funding for parcel data production.
An appropriate funding model for a national system of land parcel data must be established and supported by the federal government. This funding model must address the need to support the development of parcel data that it does not produce. This is an enormous shift in roles and responsibilities from the period in which the federal government produced maps and geospatial data for the nation. This shift from a “top-down” to a “bottom-up” production process appears to be acknowledged in the GLoB, which states the need to “develop [a] sustainable funding strategy for collaboration with state, local, and tribal government partners” (FGDC, 2006, p. 16). There are many ways for the federal government to participate. There are many precedents for the state and federal cost-sharing agreements and even direct federal grants to support geospatial-related activities. These include cost-sharing agreements for topographic mapping, orthophotography, and data conversion. They also include grants from the FGDC to support data clearinghouse and metadata
This business plan template is available at http://www.nationalcad.org/data/documents/Parcel-Mgt-Prog-Business-Plan-v1.pdf [accessed June 14, 2007].
activities. There are also many examples of programs such as The National Map that provide technical infrastructure to support the discovery, display, and distribution of geospatial data. In fact, there are counties that currently share their parcel data through The National Map interface. There are even excellent examples of state coordination of local data resources that are subsequently shared to The National Map. Furthermore, there are numerous examples of congressionally budgeted funds to support state parcel data production, such as in Montana. Finally, some states have been able to receive funds for training and infrastructure to support parcel production from DHS and HUD.
As described in Chapter 5, the cost of completing parcel data for the nation is estimated to be about $300 million with recurring costs of less than $100 million per year (Stage and von Meyer, 2007), and about 70 percent of all the parcel data have already been digitized by state and local governments (Stage and von Meyer, 2006b). The committee believes that many of the remaining parts of the country that do not have parcel data are likely to engage in local or state government parcel conversion processes even without federal involvement, although some areas may still require federal funding in order to complete their conversion. Therefore contributions for creation and maintenance of nationwide parcel data could come from (1) state and local governments, (2) in-kind and overlapping program interests, (3) seed money and contractual services, and (4) private sector contributions to local efforts. The state and local government resources would come from those organizations that need parcel data for their regular business operations, such as the local assessor and the state department of revenue. Overlapping or in-kind services include acquisition of orthoimagery, improving the accuracy of the spatial reference system, completing Census annexation and boundary information, ground control, and improving local surveys. Seed money and resources on the order of $240 million are estimated to be necessary to complete the conversion of the remaining parcel data. This would be money directed to states to support initiating parcel conversion and data publication efforts.
The committee believes that the burden of the federal responsibility will be to establish efficient systems to integrate and access the data, as well as completion of federal land inventory activities. The amount of integration work needed will vary from state to state. For example, all of the parcels for Montana are already integrated and can be accessed easily across the Internet. Other states are not at this level and do not have the same basis for funding or history of state-federal partnerships for parcel data. The national land parcel coordinator will also need funding to develop the system that will access the most recent data from local sources and make them available through a web interface. Finally, there will also be the costs required to support the national and federal coordinators and any staff.
Conclusions. Many different sources of funding could be used to complete the development of digital parcel data nationwide, including intergovernmental cooperation, shared funding, and various incentives. The federal government can play a major role in orchestrating a better use of these funds. Therefore, a major responsibility of the national land parcel coordinator is to develop a top-down funding model to support a bottom-up production process. The coordinator must also obtain funding for integration of the data, development of a system for accessing the data from local sources and making them available in a web interface, and the federal and national coordination functions.
RECOMMENDATION 8. The National Land Parcel Coordinator should develop a plan for a sustainable and equitable intergovernmental funding program for the development and maintenance of parcel data. The plan must provide financial incentives to local governments that will produce and maintain the majority of the parcel data. Many of the funds for this program should come from existing federal programs that require parcel data; however, new funding will be required to establish an initial baseline, integrate the data, and make them available through a web interface.
Issue 9. Federal requirements relating to parcel data by state and local governments.
The vision for a national program of parcel data is based on effective partnerships among all of the stakeholders. Ideally, all the stakeholders would see the benefits of participating in a collaborative environment. All the current parcel data-producing groups would develop a shared and coordinated vision that would eliminate redundant and overlapping programs. The committee found numerous examples of this type of coordination across the nation. It also found unbelievable examples of duplicative and competing parcel data production programs. For the national vision to succeed there must be a series of rewards and benefits that stakeholders will recognize as incentives for participation. These incentives could include grants, cost-sharing arrangements, and access to additional resources such as high-resolution imagery. The committee believes that it will also be necessary to balance incentives with some mandates and requirements. For example, one way to expedite development of land parcel data would be to require local and state governments to make digital land parcel information available as a prerequisite for participating in federal geospatial data programs—for example, national programs to collect and disseminate orthoimagery. Similarly, as part of their requests for grants related to property, such as for disaster relief or community development assistance, communities should be required to make their parcel data available. This would be similar to the stipulation in the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390 ; 114 Stat. 1552; codified in scattered sections of 42 U.S.C.) that requires communities to develop a mitigation plan in order to be eligible for increased levels of hazard mitigation funds. A recent NRC report recognized the importance of states including requests for funding for geospatial data development in such plans, and recommended that “states should include geospatial preparedness in their planning for homeland security” (NRC, 2007, p. 132). Alternatively, DHS could require that parcel data be provided as part of such plans. In a similar manner, the numerous HUD grant programs would be enhanced and become more accountable by requiring a community to submit parcel-based analysis in grant requests. Tying federal grant eligibility to the existence of parcel data that meet a set of minimum standards would help prevent fraud and encourage development and maintenance of valuable databases. Such a requirement would serve as an incentive for a local government to modernize its business practices. For the approximately 1,000 counties that already have digital parcel data, complying with such a requirement would not be an issue. For the remaining counties, the requirement will serve as a catalyst for promoting a parcel production program. With phase-in periods and reasonable exceptions (i.e., distinguishing between real emergency aid and longer-term rebuilding funds), these counties should be able to comply.
Conclusion. Requiring a requesting government agency to make its parcel data available in the public domain in order to participate in federal geospatial data programs or funding opportunities or to receive grants related to property, is a logical and justified part of any business model. Such a requirement should be viewed as the “regulatory stick” that would complement the various “carrots” that would be provided to local and state government to participate in a national parcel data system. Since local governments are generally developing digital land parcel data for their own purposes, tying participation to submittal of parcel data should not be an excessive burden.
RECOMMENDATION 9. To participate in federal geospatial programs such as federal collection and dissemination of orthoimagery, a local or state government should be required to make the parcel geometry and limited set of attributes needed for the national land parcel data system available in the public domain. Further, in order to be eligible to receive federal funds that are directly associated with property, such as for disaster relief or community development assistance, digital land parcel data necessary to effectively administer the program should be made available by local and state governments.
The quarter of a century since the publication of the original NRC report on a multipurpose cadastre has been one of unprecedented change in both geospatial data technology and policy. Although geospatial technologies were in their infancy in 1980, the committee at that time could still envision their capability to build a national cadastre. What it probably could not have foreseen was the infrastructure that was needed to truly make it possible—the Internet, standards, and the widespread use and understanding of geospatial technologies throughout all segments of society, even the general public. The concept of an NSDI has emerged and is even mandated as the way federal agencies should conduct their business. Many elements of the NSDI have taken shape, but the federal government has not developed nationwide land parcel data. At the same time, hundreds of local governments, several states, and many private companies have invested in parcel data systems that serve a multitude of needs. Internationally, national cadastres are widely accepted as a necessity for effective governance.
So why is the United States still struggling to create nationwide parcel data? One reason is that unlike the other NSDI framework data layers, most parcel data are developed and maintained by thousands of local government entities. To develop nationally consistent data requires a different operational model, based on coordination and partnerships among all levels of government. It has been suggested that the next phase in the development of spatial data infrastructures will require national governments to assume a coordination role while state and local governments and private industry take the lead in data production. The committee is optimistic that recent trends in geospatial data policy and initiatives show that the federal government is moving in this direction and is willing to seriously analyze the need for parcel data across the nation. Second, although many federal agencies need parcel data for various parts of the country at various times to carry out their missions, no single agency has had the combination of the need, mandate, and resources to integrate parcel data across the whole nation. This report has demonstrated that a national approach to parcel data is necessary, feasible, affordable, and timely, but challenges remain. Therefore, the committee has laid out a set of recommendations to help clarify the mandate and establish a practical framework for sustained coordination and funding. The committee hopes that establishing this framework will be the first step in moving forward with a national land parcel data program that will provide a new level of responsiveness and accountability in the way federal agencies serve the public.