Display BLM PLSS (township, range, section) & USGS Quadrangle data in Google Earth using Earth Survey Tools

Have you ever been looking for a feature in Google Earth & thought, boy this would be so much easier if I could search for it by township, range, section.  Well, now you can!  Just use the Earth Survey Plugin (ESPlugin).

What all does the Earth Survey Plugin have to offer:

  • Section Geocoder: search by point or township,range, section. Link to the BLM General Land Office records webpage which provides "live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present. [They] also have images related to survey plats and field notes, dating back to 1810."
  • Address Geocoder: get address information for placemarks and add, customize, and save placemark data.
  • Overlays: drive-time (5, 10, and 15 minute) polygons; BLM townships, principal meridians, and special surveys; USGS quadrangle index and topo maps.
  • Layers: borders (counties, states, etc.), roads, buildings (not available in all cities), trees (not available in all cities), and terrain

Check out all of Earth Survey's tools at:


Geospatial PDF?!? How to Create a Geospatially Aware PDF


Yes, it is true!  You can make a PDF map spatially aware (aka georeferenced).  Geospatial PDF’s allow users to obtain latitude and longitude coordinates, turn data layers on and off, view a selected features attributes, and to query and highlight data.  This tutorial will explain how you create a spatially aware PDF map from ESRI ArcMap.  Just follow these easy steps!

1) Obtain the latest version of Adobe Reader (for free) at: NOTE: This tutorial uses Adobe Reader 10 so if you are using a later or newer version, some of the menus, etc. may be different.

2) Once you have created your map in ArcMap, select Export Map… from the File menu. Choose PDF from the ‘Save as type:” dialog box. If it is not already expanded, expand the Options menu at the bottom of the Export Map dialog box. Select the Advanced tab.  In the Layers and Attributes drop-down menu select ‘Export PDF Layers and Feature Attributes’. Also check the box in front of ‘Export Map Georeference Information’. 


3) Open your exported map in Adobe Reader.  Add the Model Tree to the Navigation Pane running down the left side of the Reader by right-clicking the panel.


4) Start exploring! 




Click on the Layers icon in the Navigation Panel.



You can turn layers/labels on or off by clicking the Eye icon to the left of a group of or individual layers.



Click on the Model Tree icon in the Navigation Panel.


Select a feature from the list to see its attributes (NOTE: These are the same attributes that appear in the attribute tables in ArcMap. If there is a field that is turned off in your ArcMap attribute table, it will also not appear in the PDF). The feature will also be highlighted in the map.


You can also select a feature with your mouse on the map to view its attributes in the Model tree. To do so, you must have the Object Data tool on. To turn this tool on: from the Edit menu, select Analysis, and then Object Data Tool.


Finally, using the Find tool is also a simple way to query for data.  Simply type the name of the feature into the Find tool or Advanced Search search box.  If there is more than one feature that meets the criteria, it will be listed on the screen.  To see the attributes of a specific feature, select it from the search results list.



To turn this tool on: from the Edit menu, select Analysis, and then Geospatial Location Tool. The location of the cursor while be shown in a text box at the bottom of the screen.



· Each data frame will have its own folder in the tree view of the PDF that contains all the layers and the data frame graphics (neatline, background) associated with it.

· Text, picture, or north arrow elements added to a layout become part of a layer called Other. It contains all the graphics and marginalia that are not part of a data frame.

· Each group layer will be represented as a folder in the tree view, and the contents of the group layer will be presented within the group layer.

· Layers that cause rasterization, such as transparent layers, or layers that use a picture fill symbology consolidate all the layers below them into a single layer with the name Image.

· If a layer contains picture marker or picture fill symbology, use the option Vectorize picture markers/fills, found on the Format tab of the Options panel. This prevents rasterization of layers below picture markers and fills.

· Raster layers, such as orthophotos, consolidate all layers below them into a single Image layer. Place raster layers lower in the ArcMap table of contents to avoid this problem.

· Graphic or text elements added to the data frame's default graphics layer from data view become a layer called <Default>. These are displayed above the layers in the data frame. If multiple annotation groups exist (check this on the Drawing > Active Annotation Target menu command on the Draw toolbar) and their contents are in the data view, each individual annotation group becomes a separate layer above the <Default> layer. This is a good way to add focus areas or graphics that emphasize or mask certain features in the data view.

· Backgrounds or drop shadows added to the data frame may become separate graphic elements and may be rendered multiple times as graphics. For example, if a data frame has a colored background, and the layout has a different colored background, the data frame's background may be rendered once to the data frame's Graphics or ArcGIS Layer and again to the layout's Graphics layer or ArcGIS Layer.

· Dynamic labels (not using annotation) in each data frame are rendered separately as part of a layer called Labels.

· Geodatabase annotation is displayed as a separate layer in the PDF. Map annotation is consolidated into the layer for the annotation group in which it belongs.

· When labels are converted to annotation, they are automatically placed in their own named annotation group and render separately from the<Default> group.

· Data frames and other layout elements are rendered in draw order when exported to PDF. Therefore, the topmost layout element in the map is the first element in the resultant PDF table of contents. Use the Bring Forward and Send Backward commands from the Draw toolbar to change the draw order of layout elements.


Should I use ArcGIS from Citrix or Install it on my computer?

 You can use either or both. The best solution depends on three main factors.

·         What am I doing?

·         Where is my data?

·         Where am I?


What am I doing?

Appropriate for Citrix

·         making maps with existing data

·         querying and selecting  spatial data

·         creating GIS points from XY coordinates (GPS files)

·         Sub -setting data by selection and export

·         Creating or editing GIS data feature by feature

·         Buffering small data layers (few features, simple features)

·         Joins on attribute tables

Not Appropriate for Citrix

·         Geoprocessing (Intersect, Union, Identity, …)

·         Sub -setting data by Clipping

·         Spatial joins

·         Spatial Analyst

·         Buffering large or complex data layers


If you are doing one of the things on the Appropriate for Citrix list, Citrix may be your best option.  This will also depend on the location of your data.

When you are accessing ArcGIS through Citrix, you may be sharing the resources on a server with other people.   ArcMap shares resources very well with some operations, such as moving around on the map, making selections, and editing features.   Operations such as geoprocessing or buffering a large number of features are very CPU intensive.  When you start one of these operations, ArcMap assumes you are the most important person and this is the most important thing you are doing.  This can render ArcMap unusable to anyone else on that Citrix server.  Even if you are working with ArcMap loaded on your computer, don’t start one of these operations if you need to finish a Power Point for a meeting that starts in 30 minutes.  ArcMap can gobble up all the CPU resources on your computer.   Consider both the number of features and the complexity of the features. Points are simple.  A rectangle is simple.  A line or polygon with lots twists and turns is complex.  It may take less time to buffer 1000 points than one complex polygon.


Where is my data?

IDFG Spatial Data Server (LayerFetcher,  K:/ifwis/sdelayers) – This data source is available from both Citrix and desktop installations.  In the Regions, these layers will usually draw faster over Citrix, provided there are no other data source issues in your map document.

IDFG Network Drives (Q, K, T) – If you access ArcMap through Citrix, or Citrix and your desktop,  this is where you should store your data.  In the Regions, layers stored here will usually draw somewhat faster over Citrix, provided there are no other data source issues in your map document.  The T drive is for temporary storage and is purged every periodically.

 Citrix works by sending your mouse and keyboard actions to a server.  The actions are processed by ArcMap on the Server and an image is returned to your computer.  When you use data from IDFG Network Drives or from the LayerFetcher, the data and the processing  are in close proximity and the communication is fast.

Regional Network Drives (U, O, S)  - It possible to access a regional network drive through Citrix, but it is not advisable, because it will be very slow.  It will actually be pulling data back and forth over the network rather than just mouse clicks and images.  You should only store GIS data on a regional drive if you are only accessing it from a local desktop installation.  If you are at Boise HQ it is ok to use the O, S drives.

Your Local C: Drive – This will give you the fastest access to data if you are using a local desktop installation of ArcMap, however,  you will not be able to access it through Citrix, it is accessible only to you, and it is not automatically backed up.


Where am I?

In the office -  Here you have options.  You can use either or both depending the factors listed above.  If you have ever tried to use ArcMap, Excel, and Word at the same time, you have seen that everything slows down.  Using Citrix can be like having a second computer on your desk.

At another IDFG facility – As long as you are connected to the IDFG Network you will have access to the ArcGIS license server and the LayerFetcher data, so it possible to use the local ArcMap Installation on your laptop.  It is however, probably safer to put your map document and data on the Q drive and access through Citrix. If your project works on Citrix in your office it work anywhere you have a decent internet connection.

At home or anywhere not connected to the IDFG Network – Here the answer is easier. Citrix.  Your only other option is to purchase your own ArcGIS license, and you will not have access to any network data source.  You can access Citrix from anywhere with internet connectivity by going to


Other Considerations

Will you be sharing your map documents or data with others?  If the people you are sharing with are in your region and they are using a local install, then it’s ok to store data and map documents on your U drive.  Otherwise store on the Q drive and make sure your document works on Citrix.


How fast is your computer?  How full is your hard drive?  If your computer is old and slow you are better off using Citrix.  If your hard drive is near full you may not be able to install ArcMap.  You’ll need about 3 Gigs of space on your C drive to install.  Remember if you are doing any of the things on the “Not Appropriate for Citrix” list, you will need to install locally.


Problems with ArcMap on Citrix?

If you are unable to connect to ArcMap on Citrix or you get an error message when you try to open it, it may be a problem with the Network or Citrix itself.   Contact the Help Desk and let them know there’s a problem.  If it is running very slowly, it could be a network problem, but it is more likely to be a problem with a data source, data layer, or you map document.  The best way to diagnose is to start with a new blank map document and add your layers one by one.  If you are still having a problem, give me a call or send an email with the name and location of your map document and I will try to help to get to the bottom of the problem.

ArcGIS 10.2 Desktop Installation

Uninstall Previous Version

If you have any previous version of ArcGIS installed on your computer, you will need to uninstall before proceeding. [UPDATE 3/25/2015 - For 10.2.2 forward uninstall is not required]

-  From the start menu, select Control Panel.  Under Programs, select Uninstall program.

-  Select ArcGIS from the program list, then click Uninstall/Change.

-  Select Uninstall, then OK -> OK


                  Installing ArcGIS Desktop

Locate the the install program in


1)  Open the Desktop folder and double click the setup application. 

2)  Accept the license agreement and click Next.

3)  Keep the default options and click Next until the installation begins.   The install  should take about 30 minutes.  Click Finish.

The ArcGIS Administrator Wizard window will come up automatically.

            -  Under  1. Select a Product, select Basic (ArcView) Concurrent Use.

 -  Under 2. Define a License Manager, select Define a License Manager Now.

             -  In the box below, type IFWISARC.

             -  Click OK -> OK.

You are done! For instrustructions on accessing the LayerFetcher Tools click here.  It takes two minutes.  This has not changed from 10.0.

ArcGIS 10.1 TIP: Setting Projections as 'Favorites' in ArcGIS 10.1 - *NEW* in 10.1

New in 10.1!

Tired of scrolling through all the possible projections when you only use about 3 or 4 of them?  In ArcGIS 10.1 you can now save commonly used projections as a ‘favorite’.

Next time you are specifing a projection for a dataset you can mark the projection as a 'favorite' by simply clicking the 'star icon' in the top right corner of the dialog box.

Next time you need to specify that projection, simply look for it within the 'favorites' section.




ArcMap 10.1 - Edit the Service Layer Credit

In ArcMap 10.1 if you add a basemap to a mapping project, a service layer credit for the basemap (or any dataset streamed as a service from ArcGIS online) automatically shows up in the Layout View. 

The position, font, color, size, etc. of the service layer credit may not be to your liking. To edit the service layer credit in Layout View, go to the Insert menu, select Dynamic Text --> Service Layer Credits.  The credits textbox will become editable/moveable.  You cannot just delete the credits textbox. Due to licensing agreements, it will just show up again. 




August 2012 Data Export -- What's New?

A PowerPoint presentation discussing "what's new" in the August 2012 data export is now available for download and viewing.  This presentation presents a summary overview of new plant and animal data in GIS. Download DataExport_Oct2012.pptx here.

Compression Files Used for Sending Out Data



To inform you of the use of the 7-Zip file archiver program – providing need and explanation.  This is not an endorsement – only an informative discussion.


In responding to data requests for Idaho’s Special Conservation Status Species, IFWIS staff compile selections of shapefiles, PDFs, and supporting documents.  These requests often result in a large collection of files and subsequently large file sizes for emailing the results to partners and customers.  The easiest and most traditional method to aide in sending large files has been to ZIP the folders/files.  However, sometimes this still does not result in a small enough file size for emailing or receipt.  Other compression types have also been used, such as BZIP, GZIP and TAR, among others.  Recently, when ZIP is not enough, I have been using a newer file compression format called 7‑Zip (7z) that has significantly outperformed all previous freeware compression types.  For example, a recent collection of uncompressed files totaling 168MB resulted in compressed file sizes of 95MB ZIP and 6MB 7z.  The 7‑Zip software for Windows is available in both 32 and 64‑bit installs at  Note that this is an .org web site and that each downloadable installer is 1MB for the current 9.20 version.  Caution – I have had two customers who have encountered issues while installing.  When I send customers 7z files, I also provide instructions to download and install the free 7‑Zip open source software.  One customer responded that they ended up with WinZip while the other downloaded MegaZipper.  In the multiple times that I have visited this site, I have never encountered these links – not to say that they’re not there, so please be aware.

If you have better information or another useful tool, please add a new comment to improve this Blog.

Example E-Mail Message

“Attached you will find your requested data.  Please note that the attached data file has a '7z' extension.  This is a 7-Zip compressed file.  7-Zip is freely available, open source software for file compression ( and currently seems to be the best compression software, significantly outperforming win-zip.  The attached compressed files are 6 MB, while these same files were 95 MB in .zip format (168 MB uncompressed).  If you have a problem or concern with downloading or using this software, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to provide the data differently.”

7-Zip Description

7-Zip is open source software and is a file archiver with a high compression ratio. The program supports:

  • Packing / unpacking: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM
  • Unpacking only: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DEB, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, RAR, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, VHD, WIM, XAR and Z.

Quick clicks for faster roadkill and salvage reporting

In response to some of your suggestions, we're pleased to introduce a new feature for simpler reporting for roadkill or salvaging roadkill. Now, when you browse to, you'll find images of some of the most commonly reported animals killed on Idaho's roads.

roadkill improvements

Simply click on the image of the appropriate animal to save some typing for these commonly entered animals. If you do not see the animal you're reporting, please continue to type in the animal in the textbox at Option 2. You'll find all of Idaho's most common animals available in that drop down will be filtered as you type. Simply use the arrow keys to select the option, or click with your mouse.

drop-down image

We hope that this change helps with the overall usability of the form. If you have further suggestions or comments, please let us know!


How to Load a Boundary (Track) File into a GPS Unit


Let’s say you would like to upload Game Management Unit 1 to your GPS. 

1) Download the Game Management Units KML from the IFWIS Open Data page,

2) Open the KML in Google Earth. Right-click “1” in the gmu features list. Select “Save Place As…”

3) Save the feature as a KML (not a KMZ).

4) Convert the KML to a GPX file.  There are many open-source software options.  I like KML2GPX.exe (download from!msg/kml-support-getting-started/5K7vcIGUz6s/_EvtN-YqXuwJ) and GPSBabel (download from

5) Upload the GPX file as a track to your GPS.  NOTE: for those GPS units with smaller data storage space or without a data storage card the track may be too large to upload without simplifying.  Using GPSBabel, you can apply a “Filter” to the Routes & Tracks to simplify the boundary.  For units such as the etrex Vista Cx, I know that the track point upload limit is 500 (otherwise it will give you a message that says “track truncated”. The Minnesota DNRGPS Application also works well for uploading data but I have not found a way to simplify the track using this software ( 

There are many different tactics for completing this process but these are the steps that have given me the least amounts of difficulties for a number of different Garmin GPS units.  These steps have not been tested on Magellan, Lowrance, TomTom, etc.

Do you have another method that works better for you?  Please share in the comment below!