LAND & PROPERTYLand Survey   

Land Survey

A land survey is generally meant to ascertain and mark existing or proposed land ownership boundaries.  Land surveys are normally accompanied by a map or ‘certificate of survey’ of the subject property prepared and signed by a licensed land surveyor.  Oftentimes structures and other improvements such as fences and driveways are shown on the map.  Topographic features may also be shown.  Chapter 326 of Minnesota State Statutes requires that all boundary surveys be performed by or under the supervision of a Minnesota licensed surveyor.  The web site for the state licensing board can be found at:


Plats Public Land Survey System (PLSS) Types of Land Surveys Applicable Statutes and Ordinances Land Survey Division Business Plan

Early in our history, the original 13 colonies donated their western lands to the new Union.  Generally, this included the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River and was known as the ‘Public Land.’  Intending to raise revenue for the new government through the sale of land, the Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance Act of 1785 which defined the original public land survey system.  In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase was added to the Public Lands. 

The original public land survey plats were created as a direct result of the Land Ordinance Act of 1785.  They serve as fundamental legal records for real estate, as an essential resource for surveyors, and as an analytical tool for the state’s physical geography prior to European settlement.  The original public land survey plats are official legal land records for Minnesota.  Today virtually all real property title in Minnesota is based, directly or indirectly, upon the landmarks and records of the United States Public Land Survey System, a.k.a. the U. S. Government Survey.

  • What is PLSS:  The Federal government created a rectangular survey system enacted by the Land Ordinance Act of 1785, currently know as the Public Land Survey System (PLSS).  This system established the notion of surveying and marking of public lands prior to the government selling this land to its citizens.  All matters connected with the surveying, sales or anything related to those of public lands were control by the Department of the Treasury, General Land Office (GLO).  Currently this office is know as the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

    In simple terms, the PLSS system divided lands into grid-shaped townships and sections.  Each township is comprised of 36 sections (six sections to a side), and each section has an area of about one square mile, or 640 acres.

    Each township is identified by a township number counting north or south from a base line and a range number counting east or west from a principal meridian. The townships in St. Louis County are associated with the Fourth Principal Meridian.

    More about PLSS The PLSS and Minnesota
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