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Land Survey Glossary
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JACOB'S STAFF - A single staff or pole used for mounting a surveyor's compass or other instrument. Used instead of a tripod, a Jacob's staff is fitted with a ball-and-socket joint at its upper end, by means of which the instrument is adjusted to a level position; the foot is fitted with a metal shoe which facilitates pressing the staff firmly into the ground. many of the early land surveys in this country were made with surveyor's compasses mounted upon Jacob's staffs. 

JAIL-SITE RESERVE - A reservation of public lands in Alaska, not exceeding 4,000 square feet originally for use as a Territorial Jail Site. JOINDER OF ACTIONS - This expression signifies the uniting of two or more demands or rights of action in one action or lawsuit. JUDGMENT - In law an official formal decision given by a court, in another meaning, an obligation (as a debt) created by the decree of the court. JUNIOR CORNER - A corner which is part of a survey occurring at a date subsequent to a prior (senior) survey. JUNIOR LINE - Survey lines created at different times have different standings. The "junior" line would be the line created subsequent to an earlier line. See JUNIOR RIGHTS. 

JUNIOR RIGHTS - Subordinate to the senior rights. The later patent issued usually has the subordinate right in a situation where a later survey is in conflict with an earlier survey. The first patent issued usually has the superior (senior) right and the second patent usually has the subordinate (junior) right, regardless of the dates of the original surveys. 

JUNIOR SURVEY - A survey made subsequent to an earlier survey. See SENIOR SURVEY. 

KAN - Kansas. KCLA (Land Status Records) - Known Coal Leasing Area. KGRA (Land Status Records) - Known Geothermal Resource Area. KGS (Land Status Records) - Known Leasing Area. KR MER (Land Status Records) - Kateel River Meridian. KS - Kansas. KY - Kentucky. KATEEL RIVER MERIDIAN - The principal meridian governing surveys in western central Alaska; it was adopted in 1956. 

KINKAID HOMESTEAD ENTRY - A homestead entry, not exceeding 320 acres (formerly, 640 acres), initiated under the act of April 28, 1904 (33 Stat. 547, 43 U.S.C. sec. 224), which provides for the homesteading of nonirrigable agricultural lands in parts of Nebraska. 

KNOWN ALL MEN - Used in conveyancing. A form of public address, of great antiquity, and with which many written instruments such as bonds, deeds, letters of attorney, etc., still begin. 


LACHES -(pronounced as door latches) Failure to do something which should be done or to claim or enforce a right at a proper time. 

LAKES, MEANDERED - From 1851 until the issuance of the Manual of Surveying Instructions, 1973, all lakes of the area of 25 acres or more were meandered. Now, all lakes of the area of 50 acres and upwards are meandered. Exceptions to this rule include artificial lakes and reservoirs (unless the instructions specifically provide for their meandering) and shallow or poorly defined "lakes" which are actually pools that collect due to permafrost and lack of drainage, or which are desert playas. See PLAYA AND PERMAFROST. 

LAMBERT CONFORMAL CONIC MAP PROJECTION - A map plotting system in which points on the ellipsoid are mathematically projected onto a cone with its axis identical with the polar axis. The cone surface may be tangent to the ellipsoid or it may cut below the surface (secant) creating two parallels where the scale is exact. The secant form of this projection is the basis of State Plane Coordinate Systems where the zone extends more east-west than north-south. 


LAND COURT - A tribunal established for the purpose of administering legislative statutes relating to land boundaries and titles. There are Land Courts in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. 

LAND DECISIONS - Decisions of the Department of the Interior relating to the Public lands. The decisions made prior to June 30, 1932 are published in volumes 1 thru 52 and are referred to as "Land Decisions" and cited as "L.D.'s, thus, 47 L.D. 10." See INTERIOR DECISIONS and BOARD OF LAND APPEALS. 

LAND DEPARTMENT - The generalized term adopted in legal literature to denote the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and currently (1973) the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and their predecessors, together with subordinate officials, when acting in their capacity as administrators of the public-land laws. 

LAND DISTRICT - the area administered by a particular land office. The act of may 10, 1800, provided for the creation of the first four land districts in "The territory northwest of the Ohio and above the mouth of the Kentucky River," as follows: 


Land below the Little Miami ....................... Cincinnati 

Land east of the Scioto .............................. Chillicothe 

Land east of the sixteenth range of townships .... Marietta 

Other land............................................... Steubenville 

As the public land surveys spread, new land districts were created. As the disposition of the public lands progressed and the work in a land district lessened, the land districts were abolished. A provision of the Act of July 31, 1876, abolished the land districts in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. This was about the same time as the creation of new land districts in Utah, Washington and Wyoming (43 U.S.C.A., sec. 121, Historical Note). See LAND OFFICE, LAND OFFICES (BLM) and DISTRICT OFFICES (BLM). 


LANDMARK - 1) Any monument or material mark or fixed object used to designate the location of a land boundary on the ground. 2) Any prominent object on land which can be used in determining a location or a direction. 3) A landmark decision; a judicial decision considered a turning point or highpoint of the era. 

LAND OFFICE - A Government office, subordinate to the General Land Office. These offices were established in various parts of the United States for the transaction of local business relating to the survey, location, settlement, pre-emption and sale of the public lands. The brisk and extensive business in these offices gave a new phrase to our language - "a land-office business." See LAND DEPARTMENT, LAND DISTRICT, GENERAL LAND OFFICE. 

LAND OFFICE STATUS PLAT - The triplicate plat of a survey used to be referred to as the status plat." It was the companion record, in graphic form, to the tract book. These records together constituted, prior to the beginning of the Records Improvement Program in 1955, the records required in accordance with 43 C.F.R. 1813.1-1. To protct the plats from continual wear and damage and to preserve the information they contain, a system was developed whereby the old status plats are microfilmed before they are retired to a Federal Records Center. Through BLM's Records Improvement Project, new records were developed. See MASTER TITLE PLAT, USE PLAT, HISTORICAL INDEX and TRACT BOOK. 



LANDS OPEN TO MINERAL LOCATION - Lands held by the United States for disposal under the land laws are open to mineral location. Land specifically withdrawn, such as national parks, national monuments, military reservations and Indian lands are not subject to location. Minerals found within a national forest are subject to location provided the discovery is such that it would justify an ordinary prudent person his expenditure of time and effort in developing a paying mine. Without the existence of commercial value, mineral claims within a national forest are not valid locations. Lands such as the beds of navigable bodies of water and land between high and low-water mark are not subject to location under the Federal mining laws. See also STATES EXEMPT FROM FEDERAL MINING LAW. 

LANDS SUBJECT TO SURVEY - In accordance with legal requirements, the public domain lands of the United States that have not yet been surveyed under the system of rectangular surveys are subject to survey. It is a well settled principle of law that the United States, through the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land management, has the authority and duty to extend the public land surveys as may be necessary. Lands erroneously omitted from earlier surveys are, for example, subject to survey. 

LAND STATUS RECORDS - Those records maintained by the Bureau of Land management, showing ownership of the public lands and the availability of the lands for use under the public land laws. The land status records include the Master Title Plat, Supplemental Master Title Plat, Use Plat, Historical Index, Control Document Index, Miscellaneous Document Index, Serial Register, Mineral Location and Contest Index, Tract Books, Plat Books, Patents, Deeds Name Index Card File, and the Working and Reference Records. 

LAND SURVEYING - The practice of land surveying includes surveying of areas for their correct determination and description and for conveyancing, or for the establishment or reestablishment of land boundaries and the plotting of lands and subdivisions thereof. See CADASTRAL SURVEY. 


LATERAL BOUNDARIES - Side boundaries; boundaries between adjacent states extending from shore to their seaward boundaries under Public law 31; boundaries between adjacent nations through the marginal sea and the contiguous zones. 

LATITUDE - 1) The distance on the earth's surface, north or south of the Equator, expressed in either linear or angular measurements. 2) The north-south component of a traverse course. See GEODETIC LATITUDE* and ASTRONOMIC LATITUDE*. 

LEAGUE - A marine measure of distance. In different times and countries it has varied from 2.4 miles to 4.6 miles. See MARINE LEAGUE*. 

LEASABLE MINERALS - Oil and gas; oil shale; coal; potash; phosphate; sodium; sulphur in Louisiana and New Mexico; gold, silver, and quicksilver in certain private land claims; and silica deposits in certain parts of Nevada. See MINERAL LEASE and PLACER Law of 1897. 

LEASE - 1) A contract granting possession or control of real property for a determined period. 2) Tahe act of granting the lease. 3) The act of the lessee in taking the lease. 

LEASE MAP - Former name for the Outer Continental Shelf Official Protraction Diagrams. 

LEDGE - In mining law, and in popular usage in the Western States, it is synonymous with "lode" and "vein." See LODE. 

LEFT BANK (River) - The bank on the left-hand side of a stream or river as one faces downstream. See RIGHT BANK (River). 

LEGAL DESCRIPTION - A written statement recognized by law as to the definite location of a tract of land by reference to a survey, recorded map or adjoining property. 

LEGAL SUBDIVISION - The subdivision of a township, such as a section, half-section, quarter-section, quarter-quarter or sixteenth-section, or lotting, including the lot, section, township and range numbers and the description of the principal meridian to which referred, all according to the approved township plat. See SUBDIVISION, SMALLEST LEGAL; ALIQUOT PARTS and MINOR SUBDIVISIONS. 

LEGEND - A description, explanation or table of symbols printed on a map or chart to permit a better understanding or interpretation of it. 

LETTER "E" - Under a General Land Office system of paperwork classification, Letter "E" documents originated to the Washington Office and referred to engineering functions. 


LEVEE - An embankment alongside a river to prevent high water from flooding bordering lands. 

LIEU LANDS - Former public lands within specified limits (Indemnity Limits) which were granted instead of (in lieu of) areas intended to be granted but which were already patented or otherwise not available. See INDEMNITY LIMITS, PLACE LANDS and LIEU SELECTION. 

LIEU SELECTION - An application to acquire title to public lands in exchange for which the applicant relinquishes his rights or title to other lands which he, for some reason, cannot or does not wish to acquire or hold. 

LIMITED DEPENDENT RESURVEY - A dependent resurvey limited to a certain portion of a township. 

LIMITING BOUNDARY - The boundary of lands actually surveyed. The term is usually used to describe a particular boundary in special cases. For example: a fictitious or grossly erroneous meander line may be held to be a fixed and "limiting boundary" of the lands actually surveyed; the exterior boundaries of an area to be independently resurveyed may be termed the "limiting boundary" of that project area. See OUTBOUNDARIES and FIXED BOUNDARY. 


LINE TREE - A tree intersected by a surveyed line, reported in the field notes of the survey, and marked with two hacks or notches cut on each of the sides facing the line. Originally, these trees were called "station trees," and they are sometimes called "sight trees," but since the line intersects them, the term "line tree" is preferred. 

LINE TREES, Ownership of - Trees whose trunks are wholly upon the land of one owner belong exclusively to him. Trees whose trunks stand partly on the land of two or more abutting owners belong to them in common. 

LINK - a unit of linear measure, one hundredth of a chain and equivalent to 7.92 inches (0.66 foot). See CHAIN. 

LIQUIDATED DAMAGES - An assessment of monetary charges determined in advance by contractual agreement as compensation for some breach of a contract. 

LITTORAL - From the Latin "litus." Of or pertaining to the shore, especially of the sea. A coastal region. 

LITTORAL CURRENTS (T.R. No. 4) - The nearshore currents primarily due to wave action, e.g. longshore currents and rip currents. 

LITTORAL DRIFT (T.R. No. 4) - The material moved in the littoral zone under the influence of waves and currents. 

LITTORAL OWNER - One who owns land abutting a sea or ocean where the tide regularly rises and falls. In common usage, the word "riparian" is often used instead of littoral to include seashore boundaries as well as inland water boundaries. 

LIVERY OF SEISIN - The appropriate ceremony, at common law, for transferring the possession of lands or tenements by a grantor to his grantee. This method of transfer is now replaced by granting of deeds and by Recording Statutes. 


LOCAL CORNER - Physical evidence accepted by local land owners to be at a corner of the public lands survey; a local point of control. 


LOCATION - In mining, the perfecting of a right to possession of a mining claim for mining purposes. This includes the staking of the claim, sinking a discovery shaft, discovery of a valuable mineral, posting a notice of location and recording the claim. In a broad sense there are 4 types of location: lode or vein, placer, tunnel and mill site. In a secondary meaning, a location is the mining claim covered by an act of appropriate or location. Also See MINING CLAIM, LODE CLAIM, PLACER CLAIM, MILL-SITE ENTRY and LOCATION NOTICE. 

LOCATION CORNER - a term applied to a position determined and marked by the locator (claimant) to distinctly and clearly define the boundaries of a mining claim on the ground, so that it can be readily identified. 


LOCATION NOTICE - In mining, a public notice of location of a mining claim. The object of the notice is to inform the public. It must be filed and posted on the ground according to the laws of the state where located. Usually it sets forth the name of the locator, the date, the name of the claim, and a tie to a corner of the public land surveys. The essential requirement of a location notice, however, is that it must so describe and identify the location that it can be found by anyone interested in doing so, and that the boundaries may be readily traced on the ground. See LOCATION. 


LODE - Mineralized rock lying within boundaries clearly separating it from the neighboring rock and extending longitudinally in a continuous zone or belt. In mining law, and in popular usage in the Western States, it is synonymous with "ledge" and "vein." See MINERAL SURVEY. 

LODE CLAIM - a mining claim embracing public lands which contain minerals occurring in a vein or lode. See MINERAL SURVEY and PLACER CLAIM. 

LONGITUDE - The distance on the earth's surface, east or west of a defined meridian, usually the meridian of Greenwich (0o Longitude), expressed in either angular measure, such as 90o West Longitude, or in time, such as 6 hours West of Greenwich. See WASHINGTON MERIDIAN. 

LOST CORNER - A corner whose position cannot be determined, beyond reasonable doubt, either from traces of the original marks or from acceptable evidence or testimony that bears on the original position, and whose location can be restored only by reference to one or more interdependent corners. 

LOT - A subdivision of a section which is not described as an aliquot part of the section, but which is designated by number, e.g., LOT 2. A lot may be regular or irregular in shape and its acreage varies from that of regular subdivisions. The term "Government Lot" is commonly used by persons outside the Bureau of Land Management in referring to such a subdivision of a section. "Lot" is also the name given individual parcels of recorded subdivisions of private tracts. See TOWN LOT, TRACT and URBAN SUBDIVISION. 

LOUISIANA MERIDIAN - The principal meridian governing surveys in the greater part of Louisiana; it was adopted in 1807. 

LOUISIANA PURCHASE - The territory purchased from France in 1803. It was the earliest acquisition by the United States of territory claimed by a European power. It resulted in the acquisition of more than 500 million acres of public lands west of the Mississippi River. 

LOUISIANA SWAMP LAND ACT OF 1849 - The Act of March 2, 1849 (9 Stat. 352), granted to the State of Louisiana all the swamp and overflowed lands within the limits of the State for the purpose of aiding in the reclamation of said lands. See SWAMP LANDS ACT OF 1850 and SWAMP LANDS ACT OF 1860. 

LOW-WATER MARK - The stage to which a river or other inland body of water recedes, under ordinary conditions, as its lowest stage or elevation. Low-water mark should not be used in reference to tidal waters. See MEAN LOW WATER and HIGH-WATER MARK. 



J - K - L
Source:  Glossary of Cadastral Surveying Terms, 1980,  Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Department of the Interior 
                 * = consult separate BLM Glossary of Mapping Terms, not included herein.

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