149 Easements in NCED and More to Come
Until recently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had no geospatial data for acquired conservation easements. At the suggestion of The Trust for Public Land in early 2012 the BLM began collecting data related to conservation easements, with the intention of creating a digital geospatial (GIS) data layer to use internally and to share with NCED. According to David Beaver, BLM's National Land and Water Conservation Fund Program Manager, BLM recognized the importance of contributing to NCED because "this provides a perpetual repository and digital catalog of conservation easements acquired by the BLM, for both internal use and for use by the conservation community. Recording this data in GIS helps illustrate how these easements contribute to BLM's land conservation and resource protection mission." The first step in this process was for BLM Washington Office staff to generate a report from the BLM's land records database (Land & Mineral Legacy Rehost 2000 System) which showed the total number of conservation easements acquired, their unique serial number, and the state in which they were located. In order to pursue this collection the task was divided into pre and post 1995 collections. This workload has been led by Brian Mueller, a BLM GIS Specialist. A total of 149 pre-1995 acquired conservation easements were identified, covering approximately 88,000 acres across 11 western states.
With this list in hand, Brian expected that each BLM State Office could provide a digital representation of their respective conservation easements. Once he received this information, the process to synthesize disparate data sets into a national version and populate required attributes would have appeared to be fairly simple. Unfortunately, Brian discovered that no such digital data existed in any of the BLM State Offices, and the only records available were a mixture of legal descriptions found in deeds and surveying notes, as well as sketches on survey plats, BLM master title plats, and/or USGS topographic maps.
Unclear as to whether this project would be feasible, Brian decided to use Utah and Wyoming as pilot states. Each easement was created in GIS from scratch, using the established NCED GIS framework. The approach was successful and the methodology was repeated for easements in the remaining states. The entire process took approximately one year. In March of 2013, the BLM submitted a geospatial data layer of 149 post-1995 conservation easements to the NCED.
However, the work isn't complete yet. The BLM is in the early stages of collecting pre-1995 conservation easement data. Initially, the BLM is focusing on the conservation easements obtained on Oregon's Rogue National Wild and Scenic River during the 1970's and 1980's. Reports generated from LR2000 indicate that there are possibly over 250 conservation easements in this area alone, representing a majority of the pre-1995 easements.