Author Archives: Brent Jones

Brent Jones
Brent Jones, PE and PLS, is Esri's land records/cadastre industry manager. He spearheads worldwide surveying and cadastre practices for Esri and has more than 20 years experience in executive-level technology planning and market development in the engineering, surveying, and geospatial industries.

Recent Posts

Land Reform, Wolf’s Way

Mobile GIS for Enfranchisement and Economic Revival

Economists have a useful term for unregistered property: “dead capital.” Unlike the land registered in a formal legal system, unrecorded “assets” have no access to the wealth they represent. Many countries can expand the foundation of their economies by enfranchising their institutions and citizens using mobile GIS in the cloud. If they modernize their cadastres with apps that are connected to legal systems of record, their economies can ultimately access the capital needed to support business, government, and individuals.

Mobile GIS has the potential to reverse the historic crisis of unrecorded land and property in developing economies. By implementing low-cost, sustainable data collection methods, nations can migrate many tenants into the legal system in a short period of time. This will secure land holders’ basic land-holding rights to mortgage and sell their property. If done right, this can lead to nation-saving economic turnarounds.

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Jefferson’s Quilt

Stitching Together the Fabric of the American West

Flying over the western US, you can’t help but notice the vast patchwork of square parcels of land. Perhaps the largest subdivision in the world, these six-mile square townships, each containing 36 sections, have a storied history and colorful cast of characters who braved the Wild West to survey millions of acres.

That riot of rectangles we see from the stratosphere is Thomas Jefferson’s vision realized. How we manage that patchwork isn’t common knowledge, but it’s pretty cool.


The Quilt Keepers

In addition to being the stewards of the country’s natural resources, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also manages these shifting squares. Specifically, it collects, records, and shares the data on all of the corner locations that make up the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). Continue reading

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Why I Like Property Tax

One day, I received a dreadful phone call at work. It was my neighbor. “Brent, there’s a fire truck outside your house.”

I raced home and, within minutes, my house was engulfed in flames. Three quarters of everything we owned: incinerated.

Thankfully, many special family items were rescued, including hundreds of irreplaceable photos—we have the local fire department to thank for that. Three huge fire trucks and at least 15 firemen worked well into the night dousing our house before the flames were completely extinguished.

I have no idea what it cost, but I’m really glad I didn’t receive a bill. Imagine receiving a bill for all municipal services. Did you know that road paving costs about $95 per ton of asphalt? Or that each high school student costs about $10,000 per year to educate? What if we received a bill for a bad guy being arrested in our county? What if you had to consider the cost of an ambulance before calling 911? Many essential services are paid for with property tax. Continue reading

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The Democratization of Accuracy

While writing this, I contemplated titling it, “The Deregulation of Positioning.” As you can see, I changed my mind. I don’t want it to sound like a literal judicial repealing of laws. It’s still, however, something that clearly has occurred and will transform our work and enhance the capabilities of GIS. No longer is high accuracy a luxury that only cash-rich business sectors can afford (utilities, for example). Now, everyone has access to highly accurate GPS tools and workflows without any middlemen or middleware.


Thanks, Standardization

Let’s discuss what’s happened. Continue reading

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LightSquared: Man-Made Solar Flares?

High-accuracy GPS is at risk

Solar flares are naturally occurring explosions that occur on the sun’s surface from energy, suddenly released, that is stored in twisted magnetic fields. Solar flares produce a burst of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum and disrupt some electromagnetic instruments on earth. The sun is currently at the peak of an 11-year cycle of solar flares. You may have noticed GPS interference while out on the job recently. Solar flares are the probable cause of this interference. Continue reading

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National Land Parcel Data and Surveyors

Will Surveyors Heed the Call?

I recently finished reading National Land Parcel Data: A Vision for the Future, and I think it serves as a call to action for all surveyors. The book articulates the demand for a good national parcel database, including some excellent policy discussion on how to get started and how to make progress. Every surveyor who plans to work for the next 10 years should read this book. Continue reading

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