The notebooks are about 150 years old. Some of the paper has deteriorated and ink has faded. The handwriting varies from fine script to an almost unreadable scrawl. And the records are written in short-hand. Yet, those able to decipher these U.S. Public Land Survey System (PLSS) notebooks are treated to some useful tales. University of Wisconsin-Madison forest ecology professor David Mladenoff explains that these notes (collectively known as Archives Series 701) provide a view of vegetation at the time of the original land surveys in the 19th century, before intensive logging, farming, industrial development and Euro-American settlement. They are used to recreate historic vegetation maps with general descriptions of the dominant vegetation, such as forest types, wetlands, prairies and savannas.
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