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Public Land Survey System (PLSS) data - download, connect, or stream into Google Earth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Glenn Letham (GISuser editor)   
23 May 2007
Looking for PLS data for your GIS? Here's a couple of very useful resources you should consider. These include the Land Survey Information System (BLM) - available via download (SHP) or connection to a web service - and a cool utility from Earth Point enabling users to specify a location and map the data using Google Earth. Requested data are extracted and provided as a KMZ.

About the PLSS

Recall the Public Land Survey System also called the Rectangular Survey System is the foundation for many survey-based land information systems. Downloading PLSS GIS shapefiles from http://www.geocommunicator.gov/GeoComm/lsis_home/home/index.html. To select and download data, select the Map Viewer and Download button. Once on the download site use the State Tab or County Tab (next to the words << Download) to select and download data for an entire state or county. To download just one or a few townships use the Township Selection Tool. Use the Quick Start Guide or Viewer Help on the download site for more information on getting started

The PLSS data is also available as a map service for use in GIS applications. The map service allows users to stream the data live to your desktop GIS.
Map Server URL: http://www.geocommunicator.gov/
Map Service: BLM_MAP_PLSS

The Shapefiles are for use with GIS software such as ArcInfo, ArcView, ArcExplorer (download for free) or other GIS software. Shapefiles come with the following data:
Subdivisions of Section
 Horizontal Control Information
(Latitude and Longitude)
Note: The PLSS data is coming from the National Integrated Land System (NILS). The current PLSS data are in NAD83 datum. The PLSS shapefiles available from LSIS before May of 2004 were in NAD27 datum.

Contribute Data to LSIS - see http://www.geocommunicator.gov/GeoComm/lsis_home/datacall/default.shtm


The Township Geocoder allows for the conversion of Latitude and Longitude (Lat/Long) values into Township, Range and Section values. Likewise, Township, Range and Section values can be converted into polygon centroids in Lat/Long format. There is also an option to bulk upload a file containing Townships or Lat/Long values and to have their respective Lat/long or Township values be returned.

Interested in viewing Township / Range data in Google Earth?

Jump to the following section on the Earthpoint webpage - http://www.earthpoint.us/townships.aspx. Users can elect to view data from the BLM or National Atlas. Then, enter some values like State, Meridian, Township, Range. The you simply fly to "Google Earth" - the data you selected will appear on a map within Google Earth. If you'd rather see coverage for the entire country then you can view either BLM Township, Range, and Section or National Atlas Township and Range.

PLS data as seen in Google Earth (Source: Earth Point)

On the Earth Point weblog a useful tutorial explains in detail how to create a view in Google Earth that displays a plat map draped over satellite imagery for an area of interest. See Here

Useful Weblinks:

Last Updated ( 24 May 2007 )
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