Public Lands Inventory Project
Data Reporting Committee
February 24, 1999
Cadastral Framework Project
Gregory S. Tudor, PLS
The Cadastral Framework Project is a cooperative project which involves developing the federal cadastral data content standard into a database, converting DNR data, serving data over the Internet, and integrating data from additional partner organizations over the Internet. Cadastral data are the geographic extent of the past, current, and future rights and interests in real property. Rights and interests are the benefits in real property that can be conveyed or transferred to another for some consideration. Federal, state, local, tribal, and private organizations each keep specific and detailed proprietary databases of their land rights and interests. All of these organizations conduct business among each other, and many are interested in communicating their land holdings and transactions to facilitate their business operations. The goals of this project are to develop a basic information standard of communication for land holdings and transactions, create a common database of cadastral information, implement a method of communicating cadastral information between organizations and the common database, and reduce the duplication of effort in maintaining cadastral data.
The framework cadastral database being developed is based on traditional surveys and cadastres for taxation, and title registers. Records collected for taxation purposes typically include the property owner, the amount of land, the primary or most valuable use of the land for assessing value, and the estimated value of the land. An ancient and notable example is the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror. Napoleon Bonaparte's cadastre was a survey of land ownership that included measurement of the extent of land ownership to get a more accurate estimate of the amount of land that could be taxed. The value and amount of land are used to calculate the amount of tax to be levied on the property owner. The framework cadastral database can accept data on land owners, land use, land value, and the geographic extent of land.
Title registration came from a different perspective - to protect the rights of the property owner. Land title records usually specify the owner, the description of the extent of the land, and the rights to and encumbrances on the land. The registration of deed records protects the buyer of land from the seller attempting to resell the same land to another, or from buying land without a full understanding of other obligations on the land. Ancient oral contracts requiring witnesses to verify the transfer of land were replaced by written contracts, then registration of those written contracts on the public record further protected property rights. The framework cadastral database can accept additional data on the description of land, rights, encumbrances, and conveyance instruments. Both tax surveys and title registration have been brought together under the term cadastre.
Typically, cadastral records are kept by public and private surveyors, county recorders, county tax assessors, land title companies, private land management businesses, private land agents, and government agencies entrusted with public lands. Each organization keeps the records which are necessary to conduct its business. Surveyors measure and describe land; they keep records of their surveys and legal descriptions. Counties are responsible for publicly recording business transactions including conveyances, easements, leases, and sales from the land, and they keep these records. County tax assessors are interested in the value and usage of land as the basis of local government revenue. Land title companies duplicate the public records of land transactions and organize the records so that they can insure the title for land transactions. Private land managers, such as timber, railroad, and mining companies, along with government agencies managing public lands, must track the extent of their large dispersed holdings and any encumbrances and restrictions in order to manage their lands effectively. Private land agents, such as developers and realtors, watch the transactions of land closely for investment and marketing opportunities. Each organization keeps a specific and detailed proprietary database of its business interests. All of these organizations conduct business among each other, and many are interested in communicating their land holdings and transactions to facilitate their business operations. The goals of this project are to develop a basic information standard of communication for land holdings and transactions, create a shared database of cadastral information, and implement a common method of communicating cadastral information between organizations and the cadastral database.
The utility of a cadastral database with data from multiple organizations is apparent. The database could answer future queries for public lands inventory such as: Who owns the land? How much land is owned? Where is the land located? What is the land used for? However, if integration of cadastral data is not supported by a broad spectrum of organizations then the cadastral database would only be able to answer those questions in part. The Department of Natural Resources has maintained a set of public lands data for several years and that data is being moved into the cadastral database. DNR maintains basic major public lands ownership information to support its proprietary, regulatory, and planning needs. The update schedule meets basic DNR needs, but may not be sufficient to meet the requirements of other organizations. DNR would prefer for individual organizations to maintain and share their current ownership in the framework database so that the data is more accurate and comprehensive, and so that the duplication of maintenance effort is minimized.
The Cadastral Framework Project is a funded through a startup grant to develop an integration and update process. The major issue that remains to be answered for continuation of the process is how do we support data development, data integration, and data distribution efforts once the procedures are established? Clearly a single organization cannot bear the responsibility for these tasks unless that organization is supported in some way. Can the responsibility be shared among many participants? Will data coordination and communication be the driving incentive for participant recruitment and continued activity? The Framework Management Group of the Washington Geographic Information Council is currently struggling with this issue.