NCGIA Core Curriculum in Geographic Information Science
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Unit 164 - Land Information Systems and Cadastral Applications

by Stephen J. Ventura, Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

DRAFT - comments invited

This unit is part of the NCGIA Core Curriculum in Geographic Information Science. These materials may be used for study, research, and education, but please credit the author, Stephen J. Ventura, and the project, NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIScience. All commercial rights reserved.

Your comments on these materials are welcome. A link to an evaluation form is provided at the end of this document.

Advanced Organizer

Topics covered in this unit

This unit describes the origin, components, functioning, and uses of land information systems, with particular emphasis on systems for maintaining cadastral (land ownership) data.

Intended learning outcomes

After reading this unit, you should be able to:

Full Table of Contents

Instructors' Notes

Metadata and Revision History

Unit 164 - Land Information Systems and Cadastral Applications

1. Introduction

1.1 Importance of cadastral records and land information systems

1.2 GIS issues in land records

2. Definitions

2.1 Cadastre

2.2 Land information system (LIS)

2.3 Land Tenure

Rights and obligations in land, along with system for defining and governing.

Difficult to capture all tenure rights in a land information system -- multiple dimensions.

2.4 Land records

Components of legal and fiscal cadastre maintained by local governments (typically counties)

Many components amenable to automation; appropriate data models still evolving

3. History

3.1 Old stuff

3.2 Evolving land rights and definitions

3.3 Beginnings of automation

3.4 Maturing systems

3.5 One concept for a modern system:

4. LIS Players

4.1 Local government

Some with explicit mandates for maintaining land records - e.g., Deeds Registry
Others use local land information (whether in the form of automated records or paper maps, indexes, deeds, etc.)

4.2 Public

Public interacts with local land information system primarily in land conveyances and land tax assessment; may also have some involvement in particular applications.

4.3 Land-related business and NGOs

5. Land records data (in GIS context)

The challenge -- using modern spatial information technologies to prop up a land records system developed 200 years ago for an agrarian society

5.1 Geodetic / geographic control frameworks

Land information system starts with spatial reference framework

5.2 Conversion -- legal description to mathematical coordinates

5.3 Data quality

5.4 Maintenance of dynamic layer

5.5 Access and use

6. Land Information and cadastral system examples

7. Summary

This unit describes the origin, components, functioning, and uses of land information systems, with particular emphasis on systems for maintaining cadastral (land ownership) data.

In the United States, the land records system evolved from English common law. Following the American Revolution, several Acts established a rudimentary deeds systems and various systems for granting state lands to citizens. The implication for GIS is that we are now using modern information technologies to support a system designed for a simple agrarian society. The system was not designed to provide proof of land ownership, nor was it designed to handle complicated land arrangements such as de-bundling the "bundle of sticks"... individual property rights.

The main component of a local land information system is the land ownership parcel. It may be described in many ways -- as a record on a deed, a description on a tax assessment record, surveying records, etc. The reconciliation of records in various forms will continue to challenge us as we attempt to automate these records.

One vision for a fully automated system would include more than just a GIS -- other computer-based components such as document management system, database management system, and resolution of organizational and legal problems. Such a system would support not only mandated land records management responsibilities of local jurisdictions, but would also serve the needs of a broad range of actors using land information for a wide variety of programs and functions.

8. Review and study questions

9. References


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First posted: October 16, 1997.  Last revised: October 23, 1998.

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