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History and Laws of Land Surveying in Kansas

After Kansas became a United States territory in 1854, Congress created a position for the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska.  The individuals employed by this person used the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), a legal reference system initially designed by Thomas Jefferson and used throughout most of the western United States as they joined the union.

Surveying was necessary in order to begin documenting land ownership as white settlers moved into the territory. All surveying conducted in Kansas begins from the Sixth Principal Meridian and follows a township-range-section system. 

The Kansas General Land Office closed in 1876 after completing initial surveys within the finalized state boundaries, and its records were transferred to the State Auditor’s office for safekeeping.  This office was closed in 1975 and its records and remaining duties assigned to the Secretary of State’s office.

Some re-surveys of Kansas land were conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the 1940s and later.  A state statute first enacted in 1982 declared that any survey originating from a “United States public land survey corner or any related accessory” must have a reference report filed with the state of Kansas.  Initially the filing agency was the Secretary of State’s office; in the late 1980s, this duty and all records, including the historical data from the 19th century surveys, were transferred to the Kansas Historical Society.

Laws about Land Surveying in Kansas

A wide variety of state statutes govern land surveyors’ work and records created in the pursuit of land surveying.  A complete listing of laws affecting surveyors’ work can be found on the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors website.

Certain significant laws include

  • K.S.A. 58-2001 et seq: This set of statutes governs the creation of survey documentation, both physically through monuments marking survey corners and intellectually through the creation of written records about what has been surveyed.  K.S.A. 58-2011 specifies that official copies of reference reports must be transferred to the Kansas Historical Society.
  • Kansas Administrative Regulation (K.A.R.) 118-4-1 through 4 are the rules and regulations governing fees for filing with and retrieving reference reports from the Kansas Historical Society.
  • K.S.A. 58-20a01 et seq.: This statute authorizes the use of the 1983 Kansas coordinate system to survey land in the state and that the U.S. Public Land Survey system shall be the prevailing system to describe land divisions.
  • K.S.A. 74-7001 et seq.: Statutes governing the Kansas State Board of Technical Professions, the state agency in charge of examining and licensing land surveyors.  K.S.A. 74-7022 lays out the requirements for becoming a land surveyor, which are fleshed out in Kansas Administrative Regulation (K.A.R.) 66-12-1.
  • K.S.A. 19-1401a: creates the position of county surveyor.