Bryan Meyer, La Crosse County Surveyor, has educated and entertained audiences across the state with his presentations on the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). As many readers already know, PLSS is what gives Wisconsin and many other states the familiar checkerboard pattern of townships, sections and quarter sections. Developed by the federal government under President Jefferson, the system led to the orderly subdivision of land throughout the American West and facilitated the transfer of land to private citizens.
PLSS is not just a historical curiosity. It is still important today as the underlying framework for nearly every property description in the state. This is true whether property is described as literally a piece of the PLSS fabric (e.g., a 40-acre quarter-quarter section) or ties into a PLSS section corner in its legal description. Bryan’s message is that it is important to maintain and invest in the PLSS network to make sure it continues to serve its function into the future. Without a properly maintained network of PLSS corner monuments, there is an increased risk of property disputes, inequitable taxation, disagreements about resource rights, confusion over easement locations and unnecessary expenditures by private citizens and local governments.
Details of the Presentation
Bryan’s presentation is scheduled for 3:30-4:30 pm on Monday, September 27, 2021, at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) Annual Conference. The Conference is being held at the La Crosse Center, 300 Harborview Plaza, La Crosse, WI. More information can be found on the WCA website.
The slides for Bryan’s talk can be found here. However, looking over these slides in no way compares to witnessing Bryan’s presentation in person. Fact: He has been clocked speaking at a rate of over 200 words per minute. Bryan, a self-professed PLSS Geek, shared this photo of himself lying on the floor in the basement of the State Capitol next to a PLSS section corner monument. (Yes, even the State Capitol is tied to the PLSS network.)
PLSS Work Group
Bryan’s message about the importance of maintaining the PLSS network is echoed by the PLSS Work Group, a group of individuals and organizations in Wisconsin established to advocate for PLSS. Member organizations of the PLSS Work Group include the Wisconsin County Surveyors Association, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors, Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association, Wisconsin Real Property Listers Association, Wisconsin Land Information Officers Network, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Land Information Association and State Cartographer’s Office. You can learn more about the group on its webpage. The position statement of the PLSS Work Group can be found here.
The PLSS Work Group hosts an annual PLSS Forum for education and outreach purposes. The next Forum is planned for April, 2022, in Marinette County.
Bryan’s presentation at the WCA Meeting is a great opportunity for county officials to hear first-hand the importance of PLSS in their counties. Are you a county government employee who works with PLSS and land information — a County Surveyor, Land Information Officer, Register of Deeds, Real Property Lister, or GIS Specialist? If so please help by encouraging your County Board members to attend Bryan’s presentation while they are at the WCA Meeting this September.
And even if you do not work for a county, please help spread the word about PLSS and its importance to Wisconsin’s land information infrastructure.