Description: http://www.fws.gov/policy/343fw1_files/image001.gif343 FW 1, Survey Policies and Responsibilities


FWM#:     230 (new)
Date:        October 9, 1995
Series:      Real Property
Part 343:  Cadastral Surveys and Maps
Originating Office: Division of Realty


1.1 Purpose. The purpose of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) surveys is to research, locate, plat, and describe the geographic position and configuration of points, lines, and shapes for the acquisition, disposal, and management of real property rights and interests.

1.2 Scope. The chapters (343 FW 1-2) provide basic information concerning survey activities in the Service.

A. The policies, guidelines, requirements, and procedures contained in these chapters are applicable to all Service land surveys and land surveyors, including all cadastral and property boundary surveys of Service lands and interests, all land surveys associated water rights and claims to beneficial use, where required by State law, all Federal Aid Project certifications, and any construction, topographic, hydrographic, and photogrammetric surveys, as required.

B. The chapters are not meant to be a substitute for accepted textbooks on surveying, but to complement such and serve as procedural guide and requirements chapters.

1.3 Policy.

A. Surveys are required throughout the Service for land acquisition, development, construction, and management in land management programs. To provide professional quality assistance to these programs, a staff of professional land surveyors supervised by a Regional Land Surveyor will be maintained in conjunction with the realty function. Sufficient staff will be maintained to accomplish the routine workload or to supervise contracting for professional surveying services, as needed.

B. The land surveyor is charged with the surveying of areas for the correct determination and description for conveyancing, for the establishment or reestablishment of land boundaries, the plotting of lands, mapping, and layout for design and construction projects.

C. Surveys should conform to the established and recognized professional practices and procedures set forth in manuals and professional text books. All surveys must reflect professional quality and workmanship at a reasonable cost.

D. All boundary surveys of fish hatcheries, research laboratories, administrative sites, conservation easements, and lands of the National Wildlife Refuge System (System) are a functional responsibility of the Regional Land Surveyor. Contracts for Architectural and Engineering (A/E) services by other organizational units of the Service shall not include boundary survey services.

1.4 Responsibilities.

A. Assistant Director - Refuges and Wildlife. The Assistant Director has oversight responsibility and the lead role for implementing the Service's Realty Program. This includes the location, examination, ascertainment, survey and the acquisition of title to or interest in lands and waters.

B. Chief Land Surveyor. As the principal assistant to the Chief, Division of Realty, Headquarters, the Chief Land Surveyor is responsible for the development, implementation, evaluation, technical guidance, and final review of all land surveying and mapping activities associated with the Service's Realty Program.

C. Regional Land Surveyor. The Regional Land Surveyor is responsible for all contracted, reimbursable, and force account survey and mapping activities associated with the Region's Realty Program. The Regional Land Surveyor may assist the Chief Land Surveyor in the preparation and review of new surveying and mapping standards, techniques, methods, and policy.

1.5 Authority. The authority for the survey of Service lands is dependent upon the class of land being identified - acquired land or public land.

A. Acquired Lands. Acquired lands consist of that class of land wherein title is obtained by devise, lease, donation, exchange, or purchase. As a part of the acquisition process, the Director is authorized to make the necessary locations and surveys in order to secure safe title in the United States. The Director is further authorized to identify and maintain the boundaries of the Service's acquired land holdings. Applicable authorities that reference the survey of acquired Service lands are given as follows:

(1) National Wildlife Refuge System - Designation; public land withdrawals, disposal of acquired lands; proceeds (16 U.S.C. 668dd).

(2) Purchase or rental of approved areas; gifts and devises; United States lands (16 U.S.C. 715d).

(3) Examination of title; easements and reservations (16 U.S.C. 715e).

(4) Disposition of receipts from sale of stamps (16 U.S.C. 718d).

B. Public Lands. Public lands consist of that class of land remaining from the original public domain that was acquired by the United States by treaty, purchase, or cession from a foreign power. Public lands include the remaining public domain of the United States under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), reservations created from the public domain (other than Indian reservations), lands of the public domain withdrawn, reserved, or withheld from private appropriation and disposal under the public land laws (this includes wildlife refuges and ranges, National Forests, National Parks, National Monuments, Military Reservations, wilderness areas, etc.), and all outstanding surface and subsurface interests of the United States in lands which have been patented or otherwise conveyed under the public land laws. The survey, resurvey and retracement of the public lands is vested in the Secretary as delegated to the BLM Director. Applicable authorities governing public land survey activities of the BLM that affect the Service are given as follows:

(1) Duties concerning public lands (43 U.S.C. 2).

(2) Surveying duties (43 U.S.C. 52).

(3) Surveying and Mapping (757 DM 2).

(4) Memorandum of Understanding between the BLM and the Service (1986).

(5) Coordination of Surveying, Mapping, and Related Spatial Data Activities (Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-16).

1.6 Service Lands. The survey of lands under control of the Service must comply with applicable Federal and State laws, rules, and regulations that are appropriate for the class of land being identified acquired land or public land. In the case of public lands there are two specific types of land surveys:

A. Cadastral Surveys in general create, reestablish, mark, and define boundaries of tracts of land. Such surveysunlike scientific surveys of an informative character which may be amended with changing conditions, or because they are not executed according to the standards now required for accuracycannot be ignored, repudiated, altered, or corrected, and the boundaries created or reestablished cannot be changed so long as they control rights vested in the lands affected. The official record of a cadastral survey ordinarily consists of a drawing or map and a written description of the fieldwork. The drawing represents the lines surveyed, showing the direction of and length of each of such lines; the boundaries, descriptions, and area of the parcel of land; and, as far as practicable, a delineation of the culture and improvements within the limits of the survey.

B. Administrative Surveys are not based on necessary statutory authority to establish and reestablish the boundaries of Federal lands, and they do not result in the filing of field notes and plats in the public land records. They do not establish legal ownership boundaries for title and/or taxation purposes. In general, administrative surveys are made to identify boundary lines of ownership previously established by a cadastral survey (Federal) or property line survey executed under the laws of a State or other authorized political entity. No legal property corner monuments are established or reestablished by the administrative process. (See Mr. and Mrs. John Koopmans, 70 IBLA 75 (1983).) Administrative surveys of public lands are nothing more than the identification of boundary lines which are delineated by previously fixed and duly identified corners of an official cadastral survey. Administrative surveys do not have the required statutory and administrative elements of authorization, instructions, review, approval, filing, and publication by the BLM. Administrative surveys cannot be used to create, reestablish, mark, or define legal corners or boundaries of public lands. Any survey of public lands that in any way exceeds the limits of an administrative survey without the proper authority is considered unofficial and cannot be recognized by the Department.

C. When necessary to locate the boundaries of System lands, the Regional Land Surveyor is responsible for ascertaining the purpose of the survey, the class of land to be surveyed, and the type of survey necessary. In the public land States, the Regional Land Surveyor shall examine the public land records and determine the status of all surface and subsurface interests in the System lands and adjoiners. If the Regional Land Surveyor determines that in the course of the survey it will be necessary to create, reestablish, remonument, mark, or define legal corners or boundaries of public lands, he/she should take the necessary steps to coordinate the survey with the appropriate BLM Cadastral Survey Office. (See Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service, Part V., General Principles and Procedures, Subpart L., Cadastral Surveys (1986).)

1.7 Survey Planning and Budgeting.

A. In order to effect orderly planning and budgeting, offices that require survey services for boundary identification, construction, and land acquisition shall anticipate their needs as far in advance of the work as possible (see Exhibits 1 and 2 for outline of surveying and mapping services in acquisition process). Realty will coordinate with the requesting Division in providing cost and time estimates if needed. This information shall be made available to the Realty Supervisor to be included in the annual work plan and should be included in the budget planning of the requesting Division.

B. Early planning permits Realty to schedule surveying for completion in a timely manner to meet the needs of the requesting Division. Surveys will be accomplished by staff surveyors or will be contracted to a private surveying firm, whichever is most efficient or responsive to the situation. Realty will make every effort to meet emergency needs for surveying, but the requesting Divisions should keep in mind that costs can usually be kept to a minimum by orderly planning and scheduling. Surveying will be done on a basis of direct charges to the requesting Division unless arrangements are made to accumulate costs in a clearing account for reimbursement.

C. In the interest of economy of funds and manpower and to expedite development planning, preliminary mapping, and/or acquisition processes of appraisals, negotiations and land surveys, evaluation will be made for accomplishing the basic mapping and surveying programs by photogrammetry or other methods.

D. To obtain legal boundary surveys of public lands, the Regional Offices are encouraged to enter into supplemental agreements as authorized by the 1986 Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service, Part IV, Coordination (1986). The supplemental agreement should establish the general terms, conditions, funding, and administrative procedures for accomplishing cooperative and reimbursable cadastral surveys. An example of such an agreement may be found in Exhibit 3.

E. Where lands are being acquired by condemnation, it shall be ascertained as soon as possible from the Solicitor what is required for the purpose. Surveys shall be scheduled to permit an orderly completion prior to the time limit established by legal commitments.

F. Survey information as may be necessary to place an acquisition project before the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission should be obtained so as to be available for scheduled meetings.

1.8 Professional Organizations. Professional advancement and the pursuit of excellence are encouraged in the surveying staff and can be enhanced through professional affiliations. Membership in national and local societies is not required, but is highly recommended. Professional societies are an excellent source of information for legal and technical issues in the surveying and mapping disciplines. In addition, they provide a forum for exchange of ideas, concepts, and techniques. All survey and mapping personnel are encouraged to attend at least one annual professional society meeting. In addition, survey and mapping personnel are encouraged to present papers while attending professional society meetings.

1.9 General. Land surveys are needed to identify lands, boundaries, and acreage for a number of reasons including, but not limited to the following:

A. Acquisition. The survey of private and public land being acquired for control and administration by the Service.

B. Management. The survey of land under control of the Service, where boundaries have not been located, marked, or posted, or where such boundary evidence has been lost, obliterated, or destroyed.

C. Disposal. The subdivision of Service lands to determine the extent and quantity of lands scheduled for disposal and to identify the limits of the remaining Service holdings.

D. Conflicts. The location of adverse claims where possession, occupancy, use, or boundary lines are disputed.

E. Engineering. The location, layout, or determination of quantities for engineering purposes.

F. Federal Aid. Technical assistance to the Division of Federal Aid to determine the sufficiency and accuracy of land descriptions, acreage, and other data furnished by the States on land acquisition projects.

G. Water Rights. The location, measurements, inspection, and preparation of requisite reports necessary to accompany water rights applications and claims of beneficial use, as required by applicable State law.

1.10 Acquisition Surveys.

A. To assist in the acquisition process, surveys will be made as outlined below:

(1) Exterior Boundaries. Tract boundaries of the purchase unit forming the exterior limits of the present Service holdings MUST be established and monumented.

(2) Control Lines. Ownerships or basic survey control lines in the area of the purchase unit necessary to verify, establish, or re-establish exterior boundaries or corners.

(3) Interior Lines. Interior boundaries of areas or lands where adverse claims or disputes exist, or where adequate metes and bounds descriptions are not available, such as tracts bordering on water bodies, rights-of-way, topographic features, etc.

(4) Area. Tracts requiring accurate area determination.

B. Those parts of a tract boundary following water boundaries, railroads, roads, and other well-defined topographic or cultural features, which can be delineated and accurately shown on tract plats, based on reliable record survey information and/or accurate photogrammetric data need not be surveyed unless a survey is required for accurate acreage determination, to meet the Solicitor's requirements.

1.11 Management Surveys. Surveys may be required to facilitate posting or other purposes, in connection with administration of Service-controlled lands including establishing, reestablishing, monumenting, and marking surveyed boundaries where evidence has been lost, obliterated, or destroyed. The BLM is responsible for surveys of the public lands, including the location of boundaries of surveyed and unsurveyed public lands withdrawn from the public domain for Service management. Surveys of such lands may be made by Service surveyors under the direction of BLM or by BLM on a reimbursable basis. (See 1.5 and 1.7(D).)

1.12 Disposal. Parcels of land involved in an exchange or disposal will be surveyed only as required to identify the parcel and to locate the boundary of the remaining Service lands. When a station or installation is being disposed of in its entirety, generally no surveys are required.

1.13 Conflicts. Boundaries involved in adverse claims or disputes, after title is vested in the United States, will be surveyed as required. The Regional Land Surveyor should be prepared to give depositions, interrogatories, and be called as an expert witness for the Service on matters of disputed survey boundaries or other adverse claims.

1.14 Engineering Surveys.

A. Regional Land Surveyors will perform engineering surveys required for development and management programs and as requested to prepare development plans and maps for administering the lands under control of the Service.

B. The purposes for which the surveys are made vary from obtaining rough elevations for preliminary determination of engineering feasibility, to comprehensive topography, subsurface, and control surveys for construction plans. Drawings or maps prepared from such data will vary greatly; only broad guidelines can be stated here.

(1) Prior to the start of the actual field surveys required for the preparation of detailed development plans, the Regional Engineer or Chief, Service Engineering Center, shall establish or approve the information needed and the extent of the survey. The initial survey data may be used to determine the quantities of work appearing in the bidding schedule. It can also be used with staking data to compute construction items paid for in a contract. The accuracy and completeness of this type of survey will have a bearing on the potential change orders issued under a contract.

(2) Surveys for water impoundment or water-use projects shall provide enough information on ground surface elevations, within and around the area to be flooded, to locate on the ground the flooded perimeter plus 3 feet above and below spillway elevation or as determined by the engineer and to accurately determine water volumes for use in securing water allocations or water use permits. Existing water courses, canals, and ditches, must be cross-sectioned and the slope determined. Peat and muck deposits and soil characteristics should be determined. Extent of ground cover for clearing, grubbing, and stripping must be delineated, as well as other topographic or physical features which might affect construction.

1.15 Federal Aid Projects. The Division of Realty may assist the Division of Federal Aid to determine the sufficiency and accuracy of land descriptions and acreage on land acquisition projects. To attain reasonable uniformity in the procedure for reviewing and supplying of certificates, the following data are to be used as a guide for survey plats, computations, and other data furnished by the States.

A. Legal Description Requirements.

(1) Where original land grant or public land surveys were made under the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), the requirements shall be:

(a) Where all of a tract can be described by legal subdivisions referenced to the original plat or purchase is by lump sum, the acreage certified shall be that shown on the land plat.

(b) A metes and bounds description, complete with acreage, must be supplied where land cannot be described as a legal subdivision or aliquot part thereof. The description should be sufficiently detailed to permit the specific location of the tract lines and corners on the ground.

(c) Although retracement surveys are desirable, they will not be required in connection with (a) above unless there is evidence of distortion and error in the original survey.

(2) Where original land grant surveys were made of unsymmetrical boundaries such as Spanish and Mexican land grants and grants found in the colonial States, Texas, Hawaii, etc., the requirements shall be:

(a) In all cases where an acquisition comprises all of the original land grant survey and there is no indication of discrepancy between the boundary or acreage being acquired, a description by metes and bounds will be required, stating bearing and distance for each course, referenced to the original survey and plat, copy of which should be supplied. Acreage computations will be made from the description.

(b) In such instances where only a part of one or more original land grants are to be acquired, a description by metes and bounds will be required together with a dated plat and computation of acreage.

(3) Legal descriptions of land should be approved if they are correct as to land surveyed and are adequate in context to permit a competent land surveyor to locate the land on the ground.

B. Plat and Acreage Requirements.

(1) A plat of the land showing the boundaries, with the bearing and distance of each course shown thereon, and the acreage will be acceptable if the plat bears the certification by the Chief Engineer of the State Game Department, a registered land surveyor, or by a land surveyor whose work is acceptable to and certified by the Chief Engineer of the State Game Department. Acreage computation sheet is desirable, but will not be compulsory.

(2) In those instances where land is purchased on a lump sum basis, an approximation of the acreage from the records should be supplied for statistical purposes.

C. Survey Accuracy. Where the description and acreage have been determined from a survey, the accuracy of the perimeter survey shall meet the horizontal point closure classification of 3rd-order class II after azimuth adjustment (i.e., relative accuracy based on length of closure compared to length of perimeter shall meet 1:5,000), or higher if required by State law.

D. Certification. Certification shall be made by the Regional Land Surveyor in the form of a statement by memorandum or by rubber stamp affixed to the appropriate title vesting certification submitted by the State.


For more information about the content of this policy, contact the Division of Realty. For more information about this Web site, contact Krista Bibb in the Division of Policy and Directives Management.


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