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Common PLSS Terms

  • Aliquot Part
    The standard subdivisions of a section, such as a half section, quarter section, or quarter-quarter section.
    Base Line
    A parallel of latitude, or approximately a parallel of latitude, running through an arbitrary point chosen as the starting point for all sectionalized land within a given area.
    Cadastral
    Having to do with the boundaries of land parcels.
    Government Lot
    A subpart of a section which is not described as an aliquot part of the section, but which is designated by number, for example, Lot 3. A lot may be regular or irregular in shape, and its acreage may vary from that of regular aliquot parts. These lots frequently border water areas excluded from the PLSS.
    Initial point
    The starting point for a survey.
    Land Grant
    A land grant is an area of land to which title was conferred by a predecessor government and confirmed by the U.S Government after the territory in which it is situated was acquired by the United States. These lands were never part of the original public domain and were not subject to subdivision by the PLSS.
    Principal Meridian
    A meridian line running through an arbitrary point chosen as a starting point for all sectionalized land within a given area.
    Public Domain
    Land owned by the Federal government for the benefit of the citizens. The original public domain included the lands that were turned over to the Federal Government by the Colonial States and the areas acquired later from the native Indians or foreign powers. Sometimes used interchangeably with Public lands.
    Public Lands
    Lands in public ownership, therefore owned by the Federal government. Sometimes used interchangeably with Public domain.
    Range
    A vertical column of townships in the PLSS.
    Section
    A one-square-mile block of land, containing 640 acres, or approximately one thirty-sixth of a township. Due to the curvature of the Earth, sections may occasionally be slightly smaller than one square mile.
    Township
    An approximately 6-mile square area of land, containing 36 sections. Also, a horizontal row of townships in the PLSS.