Need to locate federal & state landholdings. Hope me?
August 19, 2018 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I need to concoct a list of federal and state government land holdings within a 100 mile radius of a specific area. I figured this would be as easy as just locating a database and querying it...but I was horribly wrong. Please hope me?

I'm working a quick research job and I'm looking for any and all publicly owned lands within a 100 mile radius of a specific place, basically. This is proving WAY more frustrating than I figured, however. I thought I'd dig up some weird, barely visited state or govt. databases and do an easy search but it seems databases like that don't exist or do but are not at all complete.

I'd like to find property owned by the federal government (DoD, USDA, etc), state departments (Office of Administration, Department of Natural Resources, etc.), universities (if I can), that kind of thing. Thus far, after WAY too much googling and digging and time, I've only found land / acreage owned by the Dept of Conservation, the Dept of Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service. I know a couple agencies don't own any acreage in the state at all but I feel like this surely isn't all. I've found hints that I'm not wrong, like a single excel doc from the General Services Administration that says this state owns over 8,000 acres (not including DoD or public land) but then, I can find nothing that tells me where that land is.

Any help our guidance is appreciated!

(I'm in Missouri, if that might help give answers, and I'm only looking for property within 100 miles of the Springfield area.)
posted by youandiandaflame to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
local property appraisers office may be of assistance
posted by patnok at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2018

The Protected Areas Database of the US will be one of your sources. I suspect you'll have to go to a proprietary/$$ database for a unified solution, as that smacks of adding value.

Do you need to limit it to just Missouri? 100 miles from Springfield includes parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.
posted by scruss at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

This sounds really difficult because you have a couple of different problems here: identifying/limiting the geographical scope of the project and identifying the set of possible record landholders.

The way I'd approach this is to identify each county that lies within your area and then run searches by property owner through that county's tax assessor records. Most counties now have assessor search sites where you can search by land owner, so you'll have to search every iteration of United States governmental agency and then state agency. It sounds tough and I would hate this project.
posted by norm at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

scruss: The Protected Areas Database doesn't seem to be accessible. Since trying to access the map results in an endless loop (and eventually "secure connection failed"), I downloaded the data for MO but without an ArcGIS subscription, they're basically useless. The online GIS map I can find doesn't allow upload of .lyr files either, which is what the PAD site let's one download. I think you're right though, this site would probably be of most help, I just can't get to it.

And I should have been more clear, I'm looking for sites within 100 miles of Springfield WITHIN Missouri only.

norm: I've tried that. :( Unfortunately, the assessor's records I've found don't identify the true owner -- for instance, once chunk of property in records said that the Department of Agriculture owned it, but a university actually does AND there was no physical address given. Figuring that out took an hour or so which was...annoying. Beyond that, searching in even my own county where I KNOW there is public land turns up no records at all.

So far the best ACCESSIBLE resource I've found was the Federal Real Property database but that only identified DNR and Conservation lands however, I know the state owns more outside that.
posted by youandiandaflame at 8:38 AM on August 19, 2018

Federally "owned" and administered land by State, from the USGS (still my favorite government agency):
posted by the Real Dan at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2018

Could you contact the county assessor and ask for a list of all exempt lands? That would give you a jumping off point.
posted by notjustthefish at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2018

PAD data is here: I just got a 14 MB shapefile downloaded for MO, and it's got the parks and locations I know.
posted by scruss at 3:10 PM on August 19, 2018

There is no way you can do this without desktop GIS software. The good thing is that you can use QGIS for pretty much everything. The not so good thing is that QGIS has a pretty steep learning curve.
posted by rockindata at 7:43 PM on August 19, 2018

QGIS by the way, is free and open source.
posted by rockindata at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2018

Just by chance I've been working on a similar project in Missouri just to the north of the area you're talking about. We're trying to locate all publicly owned lands along the lines of parks, conservation areas, Army Corp of Engineer lands, etc.

It's tricky because we might think of "government lands" as one single thing but in reality there are a few dozen federal and state agencies, plus every city and county have separate ownership, plus there are tons of independent government agencies like parks departments, fire districts, levee districts, school districts, and things like public universities that are quasi-independent.

One idea is to consult agencies that might have already collected some of this data. Call and talk to actual people and see what they say. The three I can think of are the US Geological Survey (maps web site), the area MPO and the area RPC. Both the MPO & and RPC have GIS personnel who may or may not have data or be willing to help.

The Protected Areas viewer/data linked elsewhere on this thread is the best single-stop shop I've seen.

Here are some others that might be helpful:

Missouri Conservation Area viewer:

Missouri State Parks Locator:

State GIS resources:

I don't see anything there specifically helpful for you--but again, I would call that agency up, describe the problem you are trying to solve, and see if they can help. They have a lot of data.

Property ownership map for Greene County:

On the County map, not only can you click on various parcels for ownership info, but you can also do various searches, ie, for "United States of America" and the like. Searching to find all government-owned property systematically would be . . . tedious but possible.

Similar map & search capability for Taney County:

Some of the other more rural counties may or may not have similar online maps. You'll have to search for each county individually. My experience is that many rural counties don't have much online yet.
posted by flug at 12:05 AM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

You may want to check with your State Archives. Here in Washington, they recently held a class about maps in there collections and how they can be used. The Archivists were amazing.
posted by Altomentis at 12:10 AM on August 20, 2018

National Park boundary GIS map:

(A few within 100 miles of Springfield--Wilson's Creek, ONSR, plus small G Washington Carver (?) area near Joplin.)

If you can divulge, it would be helpful to know more precisely the reason you are looking for the list?
posted by flug at 12:14 AM on August 20, 2018

RE: County assessors, again I would try to call them and talk to someone in person. They may have ideas about how best to locate what you are looking for and there is also a chance they may have some of the data compiled already. Assessors are interested in taxable property so for example they might have compiled lists or just totals of how many acres or parcels taxable property, how many non-taxable because of nonprofit or church, how many non-taxable because owned by government agencies, and that type of top-line summary.

However, on the county assessor maps I linked above I'm easily able to click on any parcel and see the owner, whether U.S. govt or Regents of University of whatever, etc. There are always going to be quirks, abbreviations, inconsistencies, etc in entering property owner names so that's just something like have to figure out how to deal with.

Also you probably know that counties are ultimately the only level of government responsible for maintaining comprehensive property records, so if that's what you're looking for, that's where you'll find them.
posted by flug at 12:34 AM on August 20, 2018

You may have this already, but Missouri State Park boundary map/GIS:
posted by flug at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2018

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