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Maps Produced By The U.S. Government: Public Lands

The United States government is a significant producer of maps. This guide covers the major types of maps produced and how best to access them in print or online.

What are public lands?

Public lands are held and managed by the government. Public lands in the United States are managed by a variety of agencies. Under the Department of the Interior, this includes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States National Park ServiceBureau of Reclamation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Lands are also managed by the United States Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This page covers the most requested resources from the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. National Park Service. For more information on NOAA, visit the Nautical & Aeronautical Charts tab of this guide.

Print Maps @ UIC

The Maps Unit has a large selection of BLM Surface Management Maps as well as a limited selection of United States Forest Service maps. 

The U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Visitor Maps, Wilderness Maps, and Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available in the Maps Unit and Government Documents section of the library. Check the library catalog for location and availability of U.S. Forest Service maps.

Print maps held by the Maps Unit are accessible by request during Special Collections hours. The online tools listed on this page may be used to determine the map(s) needed prior to scheduling a visit.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers to nearly 250 million acres of public lands, most of which are located in the western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

As such, the BLM produces maps and data, primarily of the western states, that are useful to researchers, archaeologists, and geologists, as well as hunters, target shooters, recreationists, and individuals seeking to file mining claims or conduct business on public lands.

BLM Surface Management Maps 
Surface Management Maps reflect Federal and State ownership information as well as geographic, topographic, township and range, and roadway information. The map scale is 1:100,000. A variation of the Surface Management Map, titled the Surface and Mineral Management Map, depicts the location and nature of federally owned mineral rights. Not all maps are available in both editions.

Surface Management Maps are primarily available in print. Print maps are available for viewing in the Maps Unit. However, there are a few online resources that may be of interest. 

BLM General Land Office (GLO) Records

U.S. Forest Service

An agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Forest Service manages and protects nearly 200 million acres, including 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. 

Forest Visitor Maps, National Forest Atlas, Wilderness Maps and Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available in print. These maps contain general information about visiting National Forests, such as recreational sites, trails, campgrounds, public information sites and attractions in the forest. As topographic maps, Wilderness Maps are useful to hikers as well as researchers. The scale of these maps is generally 1 inch per mile or 1:63,360-scale.

Print collections of Forest Visitor Maps, Wilderness Maps, and Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available in the Maps Unit and Government Documents section of the library. Check the library catalog for location and availability.

Available online are FSTopo maps and Motor Vehicle Use Maps. Motor Vehicle Use Maps show those roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. FSTopo is the Forest Service series of topographic maps of Forest Service lands. Some Visitor Maps can be found online by visiting that forest’s webpage and clicking “Maps & Publications” in the left menu.

National Park Service

The National Park Service administers more than 84 million acres in 407 areas. Sites include national parks, national monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.

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Valerie Harris
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