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A Surveying Terms

A Surveying Terms

A Terms in Land Surveying

A (Land Status Records) – Acre(s). ABC – Airborne Control. See AIRBORNE
ACQ (Land Status Records) – Acquired.
ACSM – American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.
ACT OF CONG (Land Status Records) – Act of Congress.
ADHE (Land Status Records) – Adjusted homestead entry.
ADM S (Land Status Records) – Administrative site.
ADP – Automatic Data Processing.
A&E – Architect and Engineer.
AEC (Land Status Records) - Atomic Energy Commission.
AF (Land Status Records) – Air Force.
AGRI (Land Status Records) – Agriculture, Agricultural.
AGRI EXP STA (Land Status Records) – Agriculture Experimental Station.
AHA (Land Status Records) – Alaska House Authority.
AHE (Land Status Records) – Additional homestead entry.
AK – Alaska. See Alaska Land Surveyors
AL – Alabama. See Alabama Land Surveyors
ALA – Alabama. See Alabama Land Surveyors
ALL MIN (Land Status Records ) – All Minerals.
ALLOT – (Land Status Records) – Allotment.
ALS PS (Land Status Records) - Alaska Public Sale.
ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey - a survey completed according to the standards developed by ALTA & NSPS for mainly commercial projects. AKA alta survey, alta land survey, alta land title survey
AM – Amended Monument.
AMC – Auxiliary Meander Corner.
A&M COL (Land Status Records) – Agriculture and Mechanical
AMDT (Land Status Records) – Amendment, Amended, Amends.
ANCSA – Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
ANS (Land Status Records) – Air Navigation Site.
AP – Angle point; also AP-1, AP-2 etc.
APLN (Land Status Records) – Application.
APLN EXT (Land Status Records) – Application for extension.
APP (Land Status Records) – Appendix.
APPROP (Land Status Records) – Appropriation, Appropriate,
APPVD (Land Status Records) – Approved.
AR – Arkansas. See Arkansas Land Surveyors
AREA ADM O (Land Status Records) – Area Administrator Order(s).
ARIZ – Arizona. See Arizona Land Surveyors
ARK – Arkansas. See Arkansas Land Surveyors
ARPT (Land Status Records) - Airport.
ARRCS (Land Status Records) – Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corp. Sale.
ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers.
ASGN (Land Status Records) – Assignment.
ASPH (Land Status Records) – Asphalt.
ASRHE (Land Status Records) – Additional stockraising homestead entry.
AUTH (Land Status Records) – Authorization.
AVE LSE (Land Status Records) – Aviation lease.
AZ – Arizona. See Arizona Land SurveyorsABANDONED MILITARY RESERVATION – A military reservation which has been
transferred to the Department of the Interior for Administration.
ABROGATE – To abolish by authoritative action. To do away with or
ABSENTEE OWNER – By law, one cannot be both a resident and an absentee
of a given area, state or country.
Therefore, an owner who lives in an area other than the one in which
land he owns is situated is an absentee owner.
ABSTRACT – (noun) A summary or abridgment. A shortened form of a work
or record retaining the general sense and
unity of the original. (verb) To summarize. To shorten or condense by
the omission of words without sacrifice of
sense or continuity. See ABSTRACT OF TITLE.
ABSTRACT OF TITLE – A condensed history of the title to land,
consisting of a synopsis or summary of the material
or operative position of all the conveyances, which in any manner
affects said land or any estate or interest therein,
together with a statement of all liens, charges, or liabilities to
which the same may be subject.
ABUT – To reach; to touch. In old law, the ends were said to abut, the
sides to adjoin. The term “abutting” implies a
closer proximity than the term “adjacent.”
ABUTTING PROPERTY – The buttings or boundings of lands, showing to what
other lands they adjoin.
ACCEPTED SURVEY – A survey accepted by the official having Cadastral
Survey approval authority. See
ACCESS – The right to enter and leave over the lands of another. See
ACCRETION – Derived from the Latin “accrescere” which means to grow or
increase, it is the gradual and
imperceptible addition of soil or other material by the natural
processes of water-borne sedimentation or by the
action of currents against shores and banks. Accretion is the washing
up of sand, silt or soil so as to form firm
ground, called alluvion. In common practice the terms alluvion and
accretion have been used almost
interchangeably. Usually, however, alluvion means the deposit itself
while accretion usually denotes the act. See
ACCRETION, ARTIFICIAL – Additions to a riparian owner’s soil by the
imperceptible process of accretion which
was induced by man’s activities.
ACCURACY (USC&GS. S.P. 242) – Degree of conformity with a
standard, or accepted value. Accuracy relates to the
quality of a result , and is distinguished from precision which relates
to the quality of the operation by which the
result is obtained. See PRECISION.
ACEQUIA – A ditch, channel or canal through which water, diverted from
its natural course, is conducted for use in
irrigation or other purposes. Public ditches.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – In regard to a legal instrument or document, formal
declaration before an authorized
official such as a Notary Public, by the person who executed the
instrument, that it is his free act and deed. Also
refers to the Notary’s statement itself.
ACQUIESCENCE – Some act of concurrence by the adjoining owners bearing
on the practical location of their
common boundary where the definite or more accurate position of the
line or lines has not or cannot be defined by
survey. Acquiescence may be the tacit consent of one owner by not
interposing a formal objection to what might be
an encroachment by another, all subject to judicial review as to the
legal effect.
ACQUIRED LANDS – Federal lands obtained by purchase, condemnation,
exchange, or gift under laws other than
public land laws. Legally defined as: “… land obtained by the United
States through purchase or transfer from a
State or private individual and normally dedicated to a specific use.”
McKenna v. Wallis, 200 F. Supp. 468 (1961).
See also Bobby Lee Moore, et al, 72 I.D. 505 (1965). See FEDERAL LAND,
ACRE – A unit of area measurement. An acre equals 10 square chains or
43,560 square feet. 640 acres equal 1 square
mile. See CHAIN.
ACT OF APRIL 25, 1812 – Provided “that there shall be established in
the Department of the Treasury an office to be
denominated as the General Land Office; the chief officer of which
shall be called the Commissioner of the General
Land Office …” Edward Tiffin was the first Commissioner of the General
Land Office. See GENERAL LAND
ACT OF AUGUST 4, 1842 – An act to “provide for the armed occupation and
settlement of the unsettled parts” of
Florida. By meeting certain conditions and fulfilling certain
requirements, a settler was to receive 160 acres as an
armed occupation donation.
ACT OF JULY 22, 1854 – Donation of 160 acres to each male white
resident of New Mexico who resided there on
January 1, 1853, and to male white citizens or intended citizens of the
United States who emigrated there by January1, 1858. According to the
Public Land Commission of 1904, only 4,640 acres had been approved for
patent under this act.
ACT OF MARCH 1, 1800 – This act established a precedent for the
important principle that corners regularly set by a
cadastral surveyor in the field are held to be the true corners,
although later surveys may show they were placed
which provided for grants of
desert lands to states.
ACT OF MAY 10, 1800 – This Act contained the authorization for the
creation of the first “Land Districts” and the
provision for the placement of errors of measurement and convergence in
the northern and western tiers of sections.
In the old Northwest Territory these errors were placed in the last
half mile, but in Louisiana the errors were placed
equally in each half mile of the last mile. In Florida they were
sometimes placed on the south and east side of a
township. The general instructions in the Manual of Surveying
Instructions, 1855, directed all survey districts to
handle the matter in the same way, however, irregular procedures
continued to be used in some areas for a short
ACT OF MAY 18, 1796 – Provided for administration, survey and sale of
public lands in the central part of the
Northwest Territory, north of the Ohio River. Also established the
position of executive Surveyor General, who
supervised work of professional surveyors under contract to the
Government. The rectangular system of surveys
inaugurated under the Ordinance of May 20, 1785 was continued, and the
present numerical arrangement of the 36
sections was adopted.
ACT OF MAY 20, 1785 – See ORDINANCE OF MAY 20, 1785.
ACT OF MAY 27, 1908 (35 Stat. 347) – Provided “for the purchase of
metal monuments to be used for public land
survey corners wherever practicable.” See REGULATION IRON POST.
ADDITIONAL HOMESTEAD ENTRY – An application for title which is made by
an individual for public lands
additional to those already acquired under the homestead laws. The
total area covered by an original homestead and
additional homestead entries could not exceed the maximum area allowed
for the class of homestead entry involved.
AD HOC – For this; for this special purpose. An attorney ad hoc, or a
committee ad hoc, is one appointed or selected
for the particular case at hand without consideration of wider
AD INFINITUM – Without end or limit. To an infinite extent;
ADIT – In mining, an entrance or approach; a horizontal excavation used
as an entrance to a mine, or a vent by which
ore or water are removed. See SHAFT, DRIFT, TUNNEL.
ADJACENT – Lying near or close to; sometimes contiguous; neighboring.
The term “adjacent” implies that the two
objects or parcels of land are not widely separated, though they may
not actually touch, while “adjoining” implies
that they are so joined or united to each other that no third object or
parcel of land intervenes. See ABUT.
ADJOINER – An owner of land which touches the land of another, his name
being given in the deed or instrument by
which the land is conveyed.
ADJOINING – Touching or contiguous, as distinguished from lying near to
or adjacent. To be in contact with; to abut
ADJOINING FARM HOMESTEAD ENTRY – A homestead entry on public lands
which are adjacent to land owned
by the entryman (which he had obtained other than by homestead entry)
and which, together with the land owned,
does not exceed 160 acres.
ADJUDICATION – The pronouncing of a judgment or decree in a cause; also
the judgment given. The legal
processing of applications, entries, claims, etc., to assure full
compliance with the public-land laws and regulations;
also the interpretation of statutes and regulations and their
application to a particular set of facts.
ADJUSTMENT – State or condition of an instrument which has its parts in
proper relationship. See ADJUSTMENT*.
ADMINISTRATIVE SITE – A reservation of public lands for use as a site
for public buildings, ranger stations, or
other administrative facilities.
ADVANCE FIELD COMPLETION – A process in USGS map production which shows
boundary information which
is available but not found on final topographic maps.
ADVERSE POSSESSION – The possession of land, under such circumstances
as indicate that such possession has
been commenced and continued under an assertion of rights on the part
of the possessor against the original owners.
To be “adverse,” possession must be “actual, continued, visible,
notorious, distinct and hostile.” Title obtained by
adverse possession is a fee-simple title. Possession of land does not
operate adversely against the United States or a
State. Title to Government land cannot be acquired by adverse
possession – however, under the Act of Dec. 22,
1928, Public No. 645, 70 Cong., a patent may be obtained to public
lands held for 20 years under “color of title.”
ADVERSE PROCEEDINGS – Strictly speaking, a contest; often, that portion
of the contest proceedings which precede the hearing.
AFFIDAVIT – A written or printed declaration or statement of facts made
voluntarily, and confirmed by oath, without
notice to the adverse party and without opportunity to cross-examine.
Affidavits are usually attached to field notes in
support of corner restorations. See DEPOSITION.
AGREEMENT LINE – A concurrence between adjoining land owners on the
location of their common boundaries.
The effect on the location is subject to judicial review.
AGRICULTURAL LANDS – Land suitable for agricultural purposes. Land may
be agricultural in character even
though it is covered with trees, grass, weeds or brush.
AIRBORNE CONTROL SURVEY (ABC) – A control survey using theodolites,
electronic distance measuring
equipment and a helicopter equipped with a hoversight and flashing
light. The helicopter is hovered over a ground
station and the position of the flashing light is determined by
computations. See ELECTRONIC CONTROL
AIR NAVIGATION SITE – A reservation of public lands for aviation
purposes pursuant to the act of May 24, 1928
(45 Stat. 728, 49 U.S.C. sec 214).
18, 1971, 85 Stat. 688, 43
U.S.C. 1601, et. seq., which provides for the settlement of aboriginal
land claims of the Natives and Native groups
in Alaska.
ALASKA PURCHASE – Purchase of Alaska from Russia under a convention
signed March 30, 1867, and proclaimed
June 20, 1867, provided the United States with more than 365 million
acres of additional public lands.
ALIENATION – A legal term applied to the process of transfer of title,
or a legal conveyance of property to another. In
common BLM usage, alienated lands are lands that have been patented.
ALINEMENT (alignment) – 1) Formation or position in line, or, more
properly, in a common vertical plane. 2) In
railway or highway surveying: The ground plan, showing the alinement or
direction, and components of the center
line, as distinguished from a profile, which shows the vertical
ALIQUOT – Contained an exact number of times in another; a part of a
measurement that divides the measurement
without a remainder. See ALIQUOT PARTS.
ALIQUOT PARTS – Legal subdivisions, except fractional lots, or further
subdivision of any smaller legal subdivision,
except fractional lots by division into halves or fourths ad infinitum.
ALIUNDE – From another source. Evidence aliunde is evidence from
outside or from another source. A written
instrument may be explained by evidence drawn from sources outside the
instrument itself, such as the testimony of
a witness to conversations, admissions or preliminary negotiations.
ALLOWED APPLICATION – An application to acquire title to public lands
which has been accepted and approved
as having been filed in full compliance with the requirements of the
regulations; an entry.
ALLUVION (alluvium) – The soil that is deposited along a river or the
sea by gradual and imperceptible action of the
water. See ACCRETION.
AMENDED ENTRY – A process of adjudication under R.S. sec. 2372, as
amended February 24, 1909 (35 Stat. 645;
43 U.S.C. sec. 697). This process is used in cases of erroneous
location as means of protecting bona fide rights of
ANALYTICAL PHOTOTRIANGULATION – A mathematical determination of ground
positions of paneled points
observed in a strip or block of aerial photographs. The positions are
determined by computations based on
coordinate measurements of the image positions in each photograph. This
method, which considers such factors as
camera calibration, film distortion, atmospheric refraction and earth
curvature during computations, produces data of
a higher order of accuracy than that obtained by the mechanical
methods. See MECHANICAL
ANGLE POINT – A point in a survey where the alinement or boundary
deflects from a straight line.
APEX – In mining, the outcrop of a vein or the highest portion of a
fold in a vein.
APPEAL – A process of civil law origin that entirely removes a
controversy to an appellate court for the purpose of
obtaining review and possible retrial. In general terms, an appeal
takes a case to a higher court. See WRIT OF
APPELLANT – The party who takes an appeal from one court or
jurisdiction to another. Used broadly or nontechnically, the term
includes one who sues out a writ of error. See WRIT OF ERROR.
APPELLEE – The party in a cause against whom an appeal is taken; that
is, the party who has an interest adverse to
setting aside or reversing the judgment. Sometimes also called the
APPLICANT – An individual, corporation, State or local government,
etc., applying for rights in, or title to, public
lands or resources. See APPLICANT, SURVEY.
APPLICANT, SURVEY – An individual, corporation, State or local
government, etc., requesting the execution of a
cadastral survey.
APPLICATION – A formal request for rights in, or eventual title to,
public lands or resources.
APPROPRIATED PUBLIC LANDS – Original public domain lands which are
covered by an entry, patent,
certification, or other evidence of land disposal; for certain
purposes, public lands which are within a reservation,
which contain improvements constructed with the aid of Federal funds,
or which are covered by certain classes of
leases are also considered appropriated. See VACANT AND UNAPPROPRIATED
APPROVED CLEAR LIST – A selection which has been approved by the
Secretary of the Interior or the Director of
the Bureau of Land Management. See CLEAR LIST.
APPROVED MINERAL SURVEY – The approval of a mineral survey at the State
level is final. No Washington
Office acceptance is required as in the case of public land
subdivisional surveys.
APPROVED SURVEY – The terms “approved survey” and “official survey” are
often incorrectly used as being
synonymous with “accepted survey.” Strictly speaking an “approved
survey” is a survey which has the field notes
approved and the plat accepted by the BLM official who has been
delegated the authority for such action. The
proper term is now ACCEPTED SURVEY. (Prior to 1910 the field notes and
plats were APPROVED by the
Surveyor’s General, which action was equivalent to the present
acceptance of the plat. After 1910 they were
approved by the Surveyor General, or Supervisor of Surveys, and after
examination accepted by the Commissioner
of the General Land Office.) The field notes and plat become OFFICIAL
records of the BLM when filed in the
appropriate land office. The field notes and the plats of Mineral
Surveys are both APPROVED at the State Office
APPURTENANCE – Anything so annexed to the land or used with it that it
will pass with the conveyance of the land.
An incidental right (as a right of way) attached to a principal
property right and passing in possession with it.
ARBITRATION – The submission for determination of disputed matter to a
private unofficial person selected by
agreement or in a manner provided by law. Voluntary arbitration is;
therefore, by mutual and free consent of the
ARBITRATOR – A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties to a
disputed question for the purpose of
hearing their contention and giving judgment between them. The parties
to the dispute submit themselves to the
arbitrator’s decision (award).
ARE – A metric unit of area equal to 100 square meters.
AREA, GROSS – In BLM usage, the total area of all lands, irrespective
of ownership, within the boundaries of a
township, reservation or other tract of land. See AREA, NET.
AREA, NET – In BLM usage, the area of public lands within the
boundaries of a township, reservation or other tract of
land less exclusions. See AREA, GROSS.
AREAS (BLM) – From the mid-1950’s until 1961 the Bureau of Land
Management was composed of the Headquarters
Office in Washington, D.C.; a field organization of three “Areas” in
the United States and one in Alaska; 11 State
Offices and an Eastern States Office which was in Washington, D.C.
Area 1 had supervision over Washington, Oregon and California. The Area
administrative office was in Portland,
Area 2 had supervision over Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The Area
administrative office was in Salt Lake City,
Area 3 had supervision over Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and
the Missouri River Basin surveys. The
Area administrative office was in Denver, Colorado.
Area 4 had supervision over Alaska and the administrative office was in
Anchorage, Alaska. See SPECIAL OFFICES
(BLM). Also see REGIONS (BLM).
ARKANSAS DRAINAGE ENTRY – An entry on public lands to which, under
Federal statutory authority, Arkansas
State drainage charges attach.
ARKANSAS SWAMP LANDS COMPROMISE ACT – Under the terms of this act of
April 29, 1898, Arkansas
relinquished all rights, title and interest to the remaining
unappropriated swamp and overflowed lands within its
boundaries (43 U.S.C. sec. 987).
ARROW – An obsolete term for chaining pin.
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION – The name of the instrument embodying the
compact made between the Thirteen Original States prior to the adoption
of the present constitution.
ASSESSMENT WORK – The annual labor or improvements which must be
performed on a valid mining claim
location in order for the claimant(s) to maintain a possessory right to
the claim as against the United States or third
parties. The statutory requirement (43 U.S.C. 28) is that $100 worth of
labor or improvements must be made
annually on valid claims for which a patent has not been issued.
ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS – Written instructions to a cadastral surveyor
authorizing him to execute a specific
part, or all, of a particular survey. Even if the survey has been
authorized, a surveyor may not execute it or any part
of it without instructions containing his specific assignment. See
ASTRONOMIC – Of or pertaining to astronomy. See ASTRONOMIC*, ASTRONOMIC
ASTRONOMIC AZIMUTH – At the point of observation, the angle measured
from the vertical plane through the
celestial pole to the vertical plane through the observed object.
Astronomic azimuth is the terrestrial azimuth which
results directly from observations on a celestial body: It is measured
in the plane of the horizon and is usuallyreckoned from south (0 ),
through west (90 ), north (180 ), and east (270 ) back to south (360 or
0 ). It is affected by the local deflection of the vertical (station
error) which, in the United States, produces differences between
astronomic and geodetic azimuths of as much as 26” in the mountain
regions of the Western States and 10” in the
less rugged Eastern States. Astronomic azimuths are sometimes reckoned
clockwise or counterclockwise through 180 .
ATTEST – To affirm to be true or genuine. Specifically, to authenticate
by signing as a witness; to establish or verify
the usage of; to bear witness. See TESTIMONY.
AUTHORITY, PUBLIC LANDS – Article IV Sec. 3, Clause 2 of the
Constitution of the United States established the
fundamental authority for public land and resource management upon the
adoption of the Constitution in 1787. It
states: “Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all
needful rules and regulations respecting territory
and property belonging to the United States…” It has been held that
this power of Congress is without limitation.
AUTO SURVEYOR – Trade name for an Inertial Positioning System.
AUXILIARY GUIDE MERIDIAN – Where guide meridians have been placed at
intervals exceeding the distance of
24 miles (under practice permissible prior to issuance of the 1881
Manual of Surveying Instructions which specified
24 mile tracts), and new governing lines are required, a new guide
meridian is established, and a local name is
assigned, such as “Twelfth Auxiliary Guide Meridian West,” or “Grass
Valley Guide Meridian.” Auxiliary guide
meridians are surveyed, in the same manner as guide meridians.
AUXILIARY MEANDER CORNER – An auxiliary meander corner is established
at a suitable point on the meander
line of a lake lying entirely within a quarter section or on the
meander line of an island falling entirely within a
section and which is found to be too small to subdivide. A line is run
connecting the monument to a regular corner
on the section boundary. See SPECIAL MEANDER CORNER.
AVULSION – A river’s sudden change in flow alignment out from its
previous left and right banks to a new channel,
leaving an identifiable upland area between the abandoned channel and
the new channel. The new flow alignment
will generally be a shortcut in channel length because of hydraulic
considerations. The U.S. Supreme Court in Iowa
v. Nebraska 143 US 359 distinguished avulsion from rapid erosion, but
some State courts have established different
definitions. See Goins v. Merryman 183 Okla. 155. Frequently the
elements of sudden and perceptible changes are
included in the definitions. See ACCRETION, AVULSION*.
AVULSION, ARTIFICIAL – Man-made or man-induced changes in flow
alignment of a river such as to leave an
identifiable area of upland between the old and new channels.
AVULSIVE CUTOFF – A river’s action when avulsion takes place; also,
describes the area of land enclosed by the
old and the new channels.
AZIMUTH – The horizontal direction reckoned clockwise from the meridian

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