Governor's Council on GIS Logo
Buildings Demography Environment GIS Information Policy Technology Transportation More subjects

MSDI Data: Cadastral

Commonly referred to as “parcel data,” cadastral data consist of the boundaries of land ownership parcels and attributes of those parcels. The spatial accuracy of parcel boundary data varies according to the needs of data producers, generally county governments, which also maintain a wide variety of attributes for each parcel to support their property taxation functions. These attributes generally include information about the property owner, taxpayer, structures located on the parcel, financial interests, and descriptors related to the value and use of land. Both components – boundaries and attributes - change rapidly as new property is created and existing property is reevaluated, improved, sold or redeveloped.

The Land Records Modernization Committee of the Governor's Council on Geographic Information serves as the MSDI Cadastral data workgroup.  It's members are responsible for developing and maintaining a strategic plan for meeting the state's needs for parcel data.


Parcel data rank among the top data needs of Minnesota governments and support a wide variety of day-to-day business functions. Aside from mapping ownership, uses include analyzing site locations, mapping results of program evaluations, contacting property owners, evaluating development proposals, estimating community growth potential, managing natural resources, and road management.


The goal of the Cadastral I-Plan is that all parcel data within Minnesota be maintained by primary producers, generally counties, in digital formats that can be assembled easily for multi-county and statewide applications. As of 2004, 57 of the state’s 87 counties reported they had developed some digital parcel boundaries, but 38 had not completed the task and only 37 could link their boundaries to tax roll databases. Data accuracies vary greatly among counties.

Although the principal producers of parcel data within Minnesota are its 87 counties, cities, state and federal governments, and tribal governments own considerable land. Collectively, federal agencies own and manage 3.4 million acres within Minnesota. With more than 5.6 million acres, the state is the third largest landowner in the nation. Completing a comprehensive statewide cadastral layer will require participation of all organizations owning land within Minnesota.

Few ongoing programs exist to assemble parcel data across county boundaries. An exception is a regional aggregation assembled for the seven metropolitan counties by MetroGIS. The MetroGIS project demonstrates the value of best management practices, technical standards, and organizational agreements when assembling a consistent parcel dataset from county sources. The MetroGIS regional parcel dataset retains the original accuracy and includes a subset of common attributes from the county sources. Statewide, the Department of Revenue annually collects parcel valuation data from counties and aggregates them to support its tax analysis and equalization functions, but the data does not include maps or parcel boundaries.


Version 1.2 of the Cadastral I-Plan was completed in 2003 and is now being updated. A revised plan will be completed by the summer of 2005.


Developing and maintaining accurate parcel data is expensive, costing Minnesota’s counties and cities an investment estimated at about $9 million. In addition, several state agencies and tribal governments maintain parcel data for their holdings. An additional $10 to $15 million will be required to complete parcel mapping for the entire state, with annual maintenance costs estimated at several million dollars to maintain current data.

Additional investments will be required to achieve interoperability of data produced by primary producers so that data can be integrated across county boundaries. The annual costs for technical integration can be minimized through adherence to best practices and technical standards, but based upon the experience of MetroGIS , the costs associated with local policies establishing agreements and implementing processes and procedures can be significant and must be revisited every few years.


  • Digital parcel mapping must be initiated and maintained in 31 counties that do not currently have programs of their own. Funding often is the critical constraint.
  • Institutional relationships between the primary producers and those responsible for assembling parcel data for larger areas are critical but difficult to establish and nurture.
  • Best practices, guidelines, and standards are needed to insure that digital parcel boundary data and attribute data produced by adjoining counties can be assembled for regions and, ultimately, for a statewide aggregation.
  • Funding is inadequate, not only to support primary production of parcel boundary data but also to support data aggregation across jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Licensing restrictions and cost recovery policies of data producers can inhibit joint data development, data availability, and data aggregation across jurisdictional boundaries.


To learn more about the strategic plan for meeting parcel data needs within Minnesota, contact one of the workgroup chairs.


Minnesota Resources

  • Cadastral I-Plan, Version 1.2 (February, 2003). Plan adopted by MN Governor's Council on Geographic Information to identify state parcel mapping needs and strategic solutions.
  • State Parcel Mapping Inventory. 2004 survey of parcel mapping by counties throughout Minnesota.
  • Land Records Modernization program summary (1997). Brief explanation of benefits of standardized parcel mapping to Minnesota's local units of government.
  • Land Records Modernization presentation (1998). LRM proposal PowerPoint presentation first made at MN GIS/LIS Consortium conference in 1996 and revised by the LRM committee in 1998.  Some elements described in this presentation, particularly the funding sources, were presented as options only. 
  • Land Records Modernization committee report (1999). Year-end report from the 1999 LRM committee.  Appendices include the full LRM proposal, a hypothetical distribution of funds to counties based upon the proposal's allocation model, recommended data standards, and a glossary.
  • Implementation Guide for Parcel-Based GIS in Minnesota Local Government (November 1997). This is a "blueprint" resource, to be used by local units of government, for successful implementation of parcel-based GIS in Minnesota
  • Lakeshore Parcel Mapping proposal (2002).  Proposal submitted to the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources for funding in 2003 to fund parcel mapping along Minnesota lakeshores.  The project was not funded.

Programs, Other States

  • An Assessment of Parcel Data in the US. Results of a 2003 survey of states that identifies cadastral mapping activities for all states of the nation.  The survey was conducted to help identify an implementation strategy for a national parcel database.  The study also offers an opportunity to compare Minnesota with other states.
  • Wisconsin Land Information Program.  Home page for the Wisconsin Land Information Program, which provides funds and direction for land records modernization within Wisconsin.  This site contains links to Wisconsin LRM resources, including county LRM plans, state GIS integration plans, program evaluations, grant information, and other technical resources.
  • Oregon's ORMAP Program. The Oregon legislature authorized ORMAP in 1999 to develop a statewide property tax parcel base map that is digital, publicly accessible, and continually maintained. This site contains information about the program, its sources of funding, governance structure, content standards, and grant information. It is funded through a document-recording fee collected by counties and managed in a dedicated fund.
  • Montana Cadastral Mapping Program. The goals of this project are to produce and maintain cadastral information in a consistent digital format for the entire State of Montana. Data is compiled from existing sources and integrated with the Department of Revenue's CAMA system.
  • Utah Rural Cadastral Data Collection Program. This program is funded by the Department of Interior to help Utah's rural counties develop standardized cadastral data.

Content Standards

Technical problems? Contact: