assess the current status of a national land parcel data set and the challenges to developing it. The study included the following specific tasks:

  • Identify the benefits of accurate parcel databases for all stakeholders (public and private);

  • Describe the current status of parcel databases across the nation at all levels of government;

  • Document what has been shown to be possible at a local, regional, and state level, using examples of successful systems; and

  • Provide a vision of what could be possible nationwide, and identify a strategy to achieve the vision, including the role of the federal agencies, and accounting for challenges that must be overcome.

The committee concluded that complete national land parcel data are necessary, timely, technically feasible, and affordable. Although the benefits and needs for nationally consistent parcel data are much more clear and urgent than in 1980, there has been little progress toward the recommendations of the 1980 report. While a great deal of parcel data has been digitized at the local level, 30 percent of individual parcels still need to be converted, and there has been little progress toward an integrated national set. Many of the technical barriers have been overcome, so the remaining challenges are primarily organizational. The committee makes nine recommendations for overcoming these remaining barriers.

PROGRESS AND NEEDS

In reviewing the events of the past 27 years, there is ample evidence that the federal government has attempted to better coordinate its geospatial activities. Recent policy directives mandate that the federal government coordinate the development of important national geospatial data sets, including land parcel data. By including cadastral data as a framework layer of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) the federal government has acknowledged their importance. BLM has been assigned important responsibilities to serve as a coordinator for parcel data for lands managed by the federal government and the coordination of parcel data produced by all levels of government that are needed to meet federal programmatic needs. Therefore, progress has been made in enacting policies that enable the creation of a national land parcel data set.

Although much has changed over the past quarter of a century, the list of benefits of a national land parcel data system outlined by the early reports remains relevant for all levels of government, the private sector, and individual citizens. While only a few of the largest and most progressive counties had functioning parcel-based information systems in the early 1980s, now about a third of the counties are operating such systems. For many of them, parcel maintenance is the essential core of their information system. Nevertheless, even though the value of parcel data is better accepted, the benefits of nationally integrated parcel data are not as widely acknowledged. Stakeholder feedback to the committee highlighted that federal- and state-level employees who produce parcel data believe that nationally integrated parcel data are necessary, but many local governments create data for their own applications and do not see how a national effort would benefit their own local use. This becomes a challenge now that the need for complete national land parcel data has become even more urgent for one application in particular—emergency response. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, critical parcel information that was urgently needed by emergency responders, public officials, and insurance companies was not readily available and, in many cases, was nonexistent.



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