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PLSS - Legal Descriptions Print
By Brenda Hemstead   

As a primer, the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey maintains an excellent document, Understanding Wisconsin Township, Range, and Section Land Descriptions.

Rural land parcels today are usually no larger than about 40 acres. A legal description of such a parcel might be, for example, "The NW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Section 5, T3N, R11E, more or less 40 acres." However, a single land transfer may group together a number of parcels, such as "The north half of Section 26, Township 7 North, Range 3 West."

Since a section, or its component quarters or quarter-quarters, can never measure out exactly to its nominal area, care in writing legal descriptions is important. A 1/4-1/4 section is nominally 40 acres, but may actually be more or less, sometimes quite a bit different. Transfer of property as "the north half" of a 1/4- 1/4 section would not be exactly 20 acres; similarly, separating the "east 10 acres" of the same section wouldn't leave exactly 30 acres.

Subdivisions generally will be based on a plat which results from a land survey and placement of monuments at lot corners. Typically the plat will be referenced to the PLSS as the underlying framework.


Last Updated on March 18, 2015