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Deploying Cutting-Edge Survey Management and Measurement Management Applications

BLM Implements Enterprise GIS in the National Integrated Land System

Managing survey and land records information is a challenge faced by local jurisdictions everywhere. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have this responsibility for approximately 500 million acres of public lands, with BLM managing an additional 300 million acres of subsurface mineral resources. In an era of smaller budgets, increasing workloads, and shrinking workforces, keeping up with this workload is an ominous proposition for any organization. To meet this challenge, BLM and USFS have joined together with a consortium of state, county, and private organizations to develop several applications, which combined constitute the National Integrated Land System (NILS).

NILS comprises several applications including Survey Management, Measurement Management, Land Survey Information System, GeoCommunicator, and a yet-to-be-released application called Parcel Management. The GeoCommunicator application was deployed in 2001 and the Land Survey Information System in April 2002. These two applications ( and provide Web access to BLM data and GIS resources.

In October 2002, BLM announced the first deployment of the Survey Management and Measurement Management modules of NILS.

BLM's Survey Management and Measurement Management Applications

In 1999, BLM contracted with ESRI Professional Services to design and implement the NILS enterprise GIS solution. The project began with an in-depth analysis of BLM's business processes required for managing survey and land records data using an integrated field-to-fabric approach. On completion of the initial user needs analysis, a system architecture design was developed based on these requirements and the expected user loads. A centralized architecture employing Windows Terminal Server and Citrix technology was designed to maximize performance while minimizing bandwidth requirements from BLM's distributed user base.

The first release of the Survey Management and Measurement Management applications was deployed in September 2002. These applications include a set of custom components developed by ESRI Professional Services on top of the ArcGIS and Survey Analyst technologies. NILS provides a business solution to land managers that unifies the worlds of surveying and GIS technologies through a nationwide data model, a measurement management engine to analyze survey data, and parcel creation and maintenance tools. The integration of surveying and GIS provides land managers with a complete field-to-fabric technology solution.

"The beauty of NILS is that it provides the tools to allow professional surveyors and GIS technicians to work together in an integrated system to improve the accuracy and value of mapping data that will allow for better decision making," says Jack Craven, director of lands for the U.S. Forest Service.

The release of the Survey Management and Measurement Management modules will serve as the foundation for the entire NILS application by providing new commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, custom NILS applications, a land records geodatabase, GIS architecture, and a managed work environment.

"We are very excited about the release of NILS Survey and Measurement," says Bob Anderson, BLM's acting assistant director for Minerals, Realty, and Resource Management. "About 85 percent of our requirements went into the development of ESRI's new ArcGIS Survey Analyst extension and other ESRI software. This is a huge savings to the government and a benefit to everyone to be able to leverage COTS products that are available to everyone."

The NILS geodatabase model is based on ESRI's ArcGIS Parcel Data Model, which was developed by a consortium of cadastral and parcel subject matter experts. The model is based on and meets the requirements of the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Cadastral Data Content Standard. The implementation of the NILS model will include conversion of the data from the NAD27 to the NAD83 datum as well as the development of a seamless national data set. The survey and parcel data will serve as the foundation for a national multipurpose cadastre.

The first deployment of the Survey Management and Measurement Management applications includes tools to accomplish the following activities for both public land survey and metes and bounds areas:

Survey Management and Measurement Management are built on top of ArcGIS and the ArcGIS Survey Analyst extension. Several innovative custom software capabilities have also been incorporated into the applications. Among the custom applications is a work flow management framework.

Workflow Manager

A set of custom work flow management tools has been developed to help BLM standardize and automate many of its land management activities. The Workflow Manager guides users through all the necessary GIS and non-GIS tasks required to complete an entire business process.

"Managing the work flow of an entire business process is important to the success of NILS," says Leslie Cone, BLM's NILS program manager. "Much of the valuable institutional knowledge about our core business activities is in the hands of an aging workforce (which is bound to be reduced through attrition) that is spread across the nation. The work flow management tools provide a mechanism for capturing these business processes and standardizing them for use across BLM."

The development of BLM work flows began with the elaboration of detailed use cases by ESRI Professional Services that captured the existing BLM survey and land management activities. These use cases were used as the basis for the development of specific work flow jobs. In a simplistic view, a job represents a (typically large) unit of work, such as a land exchange, that must be tracked and managed through its life cycle.

The Workflow Manager application is browser based and provides the main entry point to the NILS application for the majority of NILS users. In addition to standardizing work flows, it serves as a guide for staff in their day-to-day activities while providing a mechanism for tracking a job's status and providing accountability and control in BLM work processes. Once an active job has been selected, users are provided with a series of tasks that must be completed to finish a job. The framework supports the assignment of responsibility for each task within a job to a specific individual or user role—only surveyors can do survey tasks, realty specialists are assigned specific tasks, and so on. Once a task is completed, a message can be sent to the person responsible for the next task in the work flow. Within the Workflow Manager interface, users can view and report on jobs, track job status, initiate new jobs, assign job responsibilities, define the job's area of interest, and complete individual job tasks.

When a GIS task is initiated through the work flow, a task assistant tool is provided to guide the users through the steps in the querying or editing activities required within ArcGIS.

For more information please contact Leslie Cone, project manager, BLM (e-mail:; Jim McGinnis, USFS (e-mail:; or Kate Taylor, ESRI project manager (e-mail:

link to BLM announcement

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