New House Bill Wins Praise by MAPPS

A bill to create a comprehensive federal land inventory, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, has won the praise of  MAPPS, the national association of private geospatial firms.

H.R. 1370, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform or “FLAIR” Act, was introduced on March 17 by Representative Chris Cannon (R-UT).  The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to develop a multipurpose inventory or “cadastre” of federal real property to assist with federal land management, resource conservation, and development of federal real property, including identification of any such property that is no longer required to be owned by the federal Government.

According to Rep. Cannon, “The federal government owns an estimated 670 million acres of land, almost one-third of all land in America.  The key word is ‘estimated’.  The fact is, we really don’t know.  To make matters worse, not only do we not know what the federal government owns, we also don’t know what all the federal land is being used for, where its boundaries are located, or whether it is being put to its best use.”

Key features of the bill include authority for the Secretary to enter into cost sharing arrangements with States for up to 50% to include non-Federal lands in the inventory; a requirement that the Secretary identify current inventories, their cost, a proposal for eliminating or consolidating such inefficient or duplicative inventories into the multi-purpose inventory authorized by the FLAIR Act, and an estimate of the cost savings that will be achieved by eliminating or consolidating duplicative or unneeded real property inventories or any components of a cadastre currently authorized by law or conducted by the Department of the Interior that will become part of the multipurpose cadastre authorized by the FLAIR Act.  The legislation also requires the Secretary to report the identity of the current inventories to Congress and include recommendations for any further legislation necessary to increase the cost savings and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of replacing, eliminating, or consolidating real property inventories or any components of a cadastre currently authorized by law or conducted by the Department of the Interior.

The bill also establishes participation in existing federal standards and protocols and coordination activities to assure interoperability of the inventory with other Federal geographic information activities to avoid duplication, including FGDC, A-16, NSDI and Geospatial One Stop.  It calls for use contracts with the private sector to the maximum extent possible to conduct the inventory, with such contracts following the traditional qualifications based selection (QBS) process.  The FLAIR Act defines the inventory in a manner consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences in its 19880 report “Need for A Multipurpose Cadastre”, and defines real property in a manner consistent with the accepted Black’s Law Dictionary definition.

In February of 2004, President Bush issued Executive Order 13327 to improve the federal government’s real property asset management.  While the order includes an inventory, it does not call for it to be GIS-based and it specifically excludes public lands.  This omission disadvantages Western states such Nevada, where the federal government owns approximately 91.9% of the land area, Alaska with 66.7%, Utah with 66.5%, and Idaho with 66.4%.  By comparison, in the District of Columbia, established by the Constitution as the federal city and national capital, only 26.3% of its total acreage is owned by the federal government.  There are twelve (12) states that rank above DC in federal land ownership.  The Bush Administration’s fiscal year 2006 budget calls for  DC land inventory to identify lands that the federal government can declare as unneeded and surplus so it can be conveyed for private, tax and economic generating activities.

“The inventory should not stop at the District’s borders. The same federal land inventory is needed nationwide,” said Rep. Cannon.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has found the federal government’s current real property inventory activity is neither current nor reliable.

“Rep. Cannon’s bill represents a long standing need that government, at all levels, knows what it owns and to address ways to make the best use of the land. We applaud this initiative and encourage Congress to pass this bill. We also hope that state and local governments take note of this bill and implement similar measures”, said MAPPS President Ken Fleming, of LandAir Mapping, Inc., Louisville, KY.

“The Cannon Bill is one of those laws that just makes sense for America. The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this country to have an accurate inventory of all real property assets. The United States is one of the few developed countries in the world that does not have a national property inventory.  This bill defines the big-picture framework that will help fill the gaps left behind by individual local property inventories”, said Susan Marlow, CEO of Smart Data Strategies, Inc, Franklin, TN, chair of the MAPPS Cadastre Task Force.

“We commend Rep. Cannon for his leadership and look forward to working with him to move this important legislation through the Congress,” said MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello.

MAPPS is the oldest, largest and most active national association of private sector firms in the mapping, spatial data and geographic information systems field. The more than 150 member firms of  MAPPS are engaged in mapping, photogrammetry, satellite and airborne remote sensing, aerial photography, hydrography, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS and GIS data collection, integration and conversion services.   For information and membership, visit the association’s website at