||Purpose of the Original Surveys:
The original paper surveys were undertaken to provide the Board of Timber Commissioners with information it needed to manage timber on state lands. The Board was created by the Minnesota state legislature in 1895 and was composed of the governor, the state auditor and state treasurer. Its overall charge was the care, conservation and sale of state timber. Most of this timber was situated on school, indemnity school and swamp lands. It accomplished these functions by issuing permits to cut timber on state lands, receiving settlements for other types of authorized timber cutting, determining and penalizing instances of illegal cutting (timber trespass), and coordinating with the Surveyor General of Logs and Lumber to appraise the logs actually harvested. The law required a current (within three years) estimate and appraisal of timber prior to the issuance of a cutting permit and specified the information that was to be recorded. Timber estimators were to personally enter their reports of these examinations into a book kept by the land commissioner, to be known as the record of appraisals and to constitute 'the original record of such examinations, estimates and appraisals.'
These paper records reflect the difficulties government faced in the oversight of disparate and scattered parcels of land, as well as the haphazard nature of 19th century record keeping. Within that context, the Reports of Estimates and Appraisals of the Timber Commissioners Board represent the most coherent, accurate and broadest data set available. As such, they can serve as a benchmark against which to measure other collections. Ideally, as other data sets are identified and digitized, they can together establish a critical mass of information that will allow the comparative analysis of the environment in Minnesota across time, from the 1850s to the present.
Purpose of the Digital Data
The digital data sets were created in several formats in order to make the paper information accessible to a wide range of applications. The original non-georeferenced scans are available as records of exactly what the surveyor recorded and for use as illustration. The georeferenced scans can also be used as illustration or as a backdrop to other georeferenced data. The vector and database information can be used in geographic information systems, and the database information can also be analyzed with database or spreadsheet software.
Historical timber information can be used to build an understanding of presettlement vegetation. The volumes of forest products, i.e., board feet, logs, post and ties, can provide valuable quantitative information. When this data is used with other sources, such as bearing trees, a picture of the landscape can emerge. In addition, this data provides information on infrastructure features such as houses, saw mills and roads.