Coconino Boundary Error

Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by John Hetzler on Nov 25, 2013 2:54 pm

A bill has adavanced to Congress that clears up a property dispute in Coconino National Forest in Arizona, according to a report on The story says the bill would allow property owners to repurchase their land from the government for $20,000.
Here's an excerpt from the story:

The problem started in 2007, when the Bureau of Land Management surveyed the forest's boundary and realized that the previous survey, from 1960, was wrong. When the bureau moved the boundary to its correct position, it wound up running through people's properties in Mountainaire, a community near Flagstaff.

To read the whole story, click here:

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Nov 25, 2013 4:32 pm

This would be comical if it wasn't so tragic. It is interesting on several levels. First, it demonstrates that the concept of adverse possession carries zero weight when a federal boundary is involved. No matter that the residents paid taxes on the property for more than fifty years.

As far as te Bureau of Land Management, they preach repeatedly their primary purpose is "to protect the bona fide rights of claimants". What happened to that?

And how about the County of Coconino? Even though the property is technically removed from the tax base, they are going to tax it anyway so they "can provide services".

And yet when people say the government is too big and too powerful the progressives shout "right wing Tea Party bigot." 

You get all the government you deserve!

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Dave Karoly on Nov 27, 2013 1:02 pm

Why are the most strident right wingers usually retired Government Employees living on a Government Pension?  It seems to be common.  I have a relative that never worked a private sector job after the age of 21 who is also a far right winger (not Conservative-they don't exist anymore).  He was a Regulator for Gawd's sakes and now complains about how terrible the government is LOL.  Owner's of private firms that I have known have a higher rate of being liberals than the government employees that I have known but that is just my impression.

But onwards and upwards...

There is a Dependant Resurvey approved 11/23/2007 in Section 28, T20N, R7E, Gila River Meridian, which appears to be in the community of Mountainaire.  Only the Plat is on-line.  There is also a Dependant Resurvey approved 03/09/2009 in Section 3 but that is in Flagstaff so I'm guessing it isn't it.  The Field Notes are not on-line.  There is no record of a 1959 Survey in, it could be the Subdivision Plat by a private surveyor or a Forest Service Survey which wasn't an approved Dependant Resurvey.  There is not enough information to know what is really going on; the BLM could be correct and these people are out of luck.

This is a problem of boundary location, not title so Adverse Possession has nothing to do with it no matter who is involved.  I think, but don't know for sure, I think it involves an east-west section line or it could involve the east-west centerline of section but I can't tell from the plat.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Dave Karoly on Nov 27, 2013 1:26 pm

Yes it appears to be the east-west centerline of Section 28.  The Plat has a Lat/Long at the southeast corner of the Section.  Measuring the Plat distance north to the east quarter corner from that Lat/Long falls roughly 50' or so short of the east-west fence nominally on the east-west centerline of section.  It looks like the BLM's version of the east-west centerline goes through several houses which are on Lots on the south side of the centerline.

We don't know who messed it up in 1959, it could very well have been the private surveyor who did the Subdivision Plat.

The BLM may have good reason for what they did or maybe they are ignoring established monuments but can't tell from the Plat.

There certainly isn't enough information to conclude the Government is a bunch of evil trolls who go around stealing people's property.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Nov 27, 2013 3:01 pm

Oh Please!

This has nothing to do with right or left wingnuts. But since that door is open, leave it to a lefty to spin it. And I might add, introduce opinions not supported by facts. But thanks for "monumenting" my point anyway.

The articles referenced do leave out some of the details. Another article claimed it was a private contract surveyor who made the blunder. Arizona had no requirement in 1960 to officially record subdivisions. Coconino County doesn't appear to have records on line.  Many of these rural areas have "less than perfect" records, and for that matter surveys.

Good to see the Schwarzecare Shutdown is over and that BLM website is up and running after those Republican rascals forced the Messiah to shut it down. Now if only that ACA site could work as well.

But that is NOT the point!

This is the wrong question : Why are the most strident right wingers usually retired Government Employees living on a Government Pension?  
When that retiree regardless of political affiliation has actual experience he knows what is supposed to occur.  So the proper question is , why are long-standing rules governing these situations not being followed?

For the record , I was a Series 1373 Federal Surveyor. In fact I declined a BLM position that would have had me working in this very jurisdiction. Not that I haven't. I worked on two federal boundaries in the vicinity. With the Park Service I did some work on the boundary between the Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park and the GCNP Navajo Nation Boundary. The famed Dennis Moulands was my Forest Service counterpart on the Kaibab project. Oh yeah, I'm also licensed in Arizona.

But I'm not finished. I was a surveyor and "regulator" for a county as well, to wit San Diego. I have dealt with situations such as this from both sides of the boundary, so to speak.

Now to the chase. The Bureau of Land Management has a mandate. They "officially" imbue their staff with this party line in virtually all of their training sessions. I have attended many as an Interior Department employee. There are two pillars in the ministering of the PLSS, good faith, and bona fide rights. The bona fide rights of claimants are allegedly sacrosanct. In short they (BLM) publicly profess to honor duly executed lines if they are occupied in good faith.

This incident is far from the only time the Bureau has reneged on that promise in my experience. I have encountered this situation on several occasions.

I am also familiar with county machinations. Tax Assessors are loathe to remove parcels or even parts of them from the tax base. They do not like to let go of revenue streams or have them reduced as in this case. Yes, the tax man needs to be educated when these situations occur. They don't understand either.

And lastly, what right-winger is a victim's advocate? Especially at the risk of jeopardizing that precious pension with anti-establishment rhetoric

Don't eat too much fat, greasy turkey tomorrow. It might slow you down.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Dave Karoly on Nov 28, 2013 10:10 am

I hope I didn't hurt your feelings.  HA HA HA LIVING ON A FEDERAL PENSION I KNEW IT!

Me a lefty, who would've thunk it?

Looking at the Assessor's GIS it looks like there is an angle point on the east-west centerline at the center quarter.  The subdivision boundary appears to bear several degrees north of west, west of the center quarter.  There is a subdivision map involved but it doesn't appear to be available online.  Maybe the subdivision surveyor had good reason to do that or maybe not, it's hard to tell.

Jumping to conclusions with a particular set of political glasses on may be fun but not necessarily accurate.

the Assessor's job is to collect the most taxes possible, duh.  How do you think they fund the county employee's salaries and pensions?

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Nov 28, 2013 2:33 pm

Dave- I couldn't "live" off my penurious federal pension. If that were my only income source I would qualify for every Obenefit and subsidy the social welfare state has in its catalog.

Lefty or not, you took the "Tea Party" bait. It is cautionary at best to analyze boundary problems using the Assessor's GIS as an analytical tool. We don't know if they use any competent surveyors to validate the horizontal position data. I had my fair share of "revisions" in the 900,000 odd parcels in the S.D. base. And it's still far from perfect. In fact, I know of at least three similar conditions that exist in that database.

I noticed as I scanned the owner data we have a Martha Stewart, obviously not THE Martha Stewart. We also have a guy named Rambo, obviously not THE Rambo.

That said, the next time you hear someone contemptuously quip "Get it Surveyed", let's remember what happened here. Because what happened here is that the surveyor comes off as the villain. Whatever the public image of government retirees is, it pales compared to the public perception of surveyors. This is another "nail in the coffin", so to speak. It is literally requiring an Act of Congress to remedy.

And yet nobody in this mix feels he did anything wrong. As far as we know, everyone acted in good faith. The bottom line is people have to "buy back" what they believed they owned. If this dispute was between private parties, such as in the notorious Bryant vs. Blevins, they would have legal recourse. That is as we all know not an option when the federal government is involved. I could say something about the "options" available anytime the feds are involved, but we will leave that for another day.

Way back when I was starting out as a chainman, this exact same thing happened to one of our clients. A ten foot "error" forced a group of people to pay for property they thought they owned. That experience left me wondering if I was choosing the right career path. And here we are nearly fifty years later, and I'm still experiencing that sinking feeling, pension and all.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 28, 2013 4:25 pm

We'll guess what......I think the Az BLM believes in the "bogus theory", as you know, ignores all existing corner evidence and uses ONLY the original protracted section subdivision lines for evidence!

Since the Washington D C office refuses to issue an opinion on the proper method of subdividing a section, these kind of problems come up and of course the Bona Fide rights of the private landowners are not protected!

It would be easy to prove me wrong here, if those who know the ground facts step up?

I am only going on instinct  without reading the field notes.  The BLM field notes will tell us what the story is!


Maybe the WO could step and explain the BLM policy!!

Happy Thanksgiving all.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 28, 2013 5:07 pm

These type special legislative bills come up and of course BLM is asked to comment on them.  This was one of my duties in the W. O. BLM to prepare the BLM's policy on the proposed legislation.

I wonder what their response is to this proposed bill?


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 29, 2013 12:02 am

Can we assume that the land owners were not advised that they could protest the BLM resurvey?

If they did, what was the outcome of that process?

Some in BLM do not believe in properly advising land owners of their rights!


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 29, 2013 12:08 am

And of course those who know could let those of us that do not know!

For instance, what was wrong with the 50 year old survey that the land owners were depending on?

Lots of questions that could be debated before Congress gets involved!

Looking for some answers from those who know.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 29, 2013 12:17 am

I am thinking......

This just might be a case to pursue?

If it is what I suspect.....I could give some advice to help resolve it!

It may not need Congress?


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 29, 2013 11:05 am

Still smelling "bogus theory"!


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Nov 29, 2013 2:20 pm

Sorry Keith- we're just a couple of "right wing retirees". Who would listen to us? But it does appear one of those "flawed" center  Quarter Corners may be in the mix.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 29, 2013 11:26 pm


You are right about us being a couple of "right wingers" and it is easy to determine that liberals just cannot accept the fact that there is another side!


I am going to pursue this case as it smells and I have to believe there can be some conversations with the landowners and the person on this opening thread from the Cronkite News.

It would seem to me at this point that BLM get on board and cooperate in getting to the facts in the case.

My next step is to contact the Cronkite News and Jack Fitzpatrick and offer some ideas on how to resolve the situation.

This may get interesting!!!

Maybe even the Washington D.C. Office may get involved?

I will be respnding later as I find some facts to this.

Landowners who have been relying on their established boundaries need a voice in their problem.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 30, 2013 1:12 am

Several emails have been sent to pertinent people!

Stay tuned.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Nov 30, 2013 1:51 pm

Dave mentioned the survey plat of T. 20 N., R. 7 E., in a post above and I now have that plat.

If in fact this is the subdivision of section survey, it does look like a "bogus theory" survey with the section centerlines being straight for the full mile.

Need the official field notes to determine what and how this is on the ground.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Dec 1, 2013 12:47 am

No comments from anyone??????

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by nmillerpls on Dec 1, 2013 8:00 am

It sounds like the same worn out story we've heard many times before.  Exterior monuments controlling a resurvey of an interior previously surveyed. I wish you well with the investigation. It does beg the question what helpful service taxpayers are getting out of the BLM. 
Norm Miller

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Dec 1, 2013 12:21 pm

Thanks Norm for your comments.

Also the Congressperson Ann Kirkpatrick is on facebook and there are comments there about this case.


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Dec 1, 2013 12:44 pm

Kirkpatrick is a Dem and big Obamuh supporter. Read "If you like your land, you get to keep it, period".

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Dec 1, 2013 12:57 pm


You are right about her, but she is the representative in the area and has introduced the bill to "correct the problem"?

I am mostly interested in reading the field notes and also if the landowners were given the advice from BLM about officiailly protesting the BLM survey/resurvey and what was the result?  Also of course, has this case been appealed to the Secretary of the Interior's "Interior Board of Land Appeals"?

These should be the necessary administrative procedures before the Congress jumps out in front with a Special Bill!

Question is:  Were the land owners advised of these procedures?

I doubt it!


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Dec 1, 2013 1:06 pm

I have written plenty of posts on the BLM's "bogus theory" on subdividing sections and this case  smells like it is one of those cases.

We shall see if I am right and probably one main purpose for these posts is to alert certain people to the facts, that it is entirely possible that the landowners have been "misled"?

It might even be possible that the BLM Cadastral Survey will take a serious look at their two distinct different methods of subdividing sections in the Public Land Survey System.

I would certainly like to see the BLM Washington D.C. office response to the proposed legislation!

Doncha think?


Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by MLB on Dec 1, 2013 1:38 pm

Keith, there is one small quirk that may or may not be important. The Forest Service is in the Department of Agriculture. The Interior Department may or may not be an interested party. That is a possible reason this is in the process of being settled by statute and not the IBLA. Just a thought.

Re: Coconino Boundary Error

Posted by Keith on Dec 1, 2013 1:58 pm


The BLM survey/resurvey will always be subject to the Interior's Board of Land Appeals!

And of course it is possible that the case has run the gammut on administrative appeals, but I doubt it.

I have reason to believe that IBLA is aware of BLM's two methods of subdividing sections and have not had a case yet to rule on it.

I  am quite sure that we will soon know if in fact the landowners were given the advice to officially protest!

It is my opinion that this case represents the confusion and utter waste of time and waste of Congressional time, when BLM could issue a decision on this "bogus theory"!

Still waiting for them to do that!