A 1.381Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE
It Just Isn’t Fair
I was disappointed to find out that Joel Leininger, in his first "Point to Point" article on boundary issues, could not support my recent idea to strengthen the art of boundary surveying by promoting a national standard record of survey.
His position is that "more laws do not ensure better surveys." Despite acknowledging the problem of too many surveyors not conducting proper boundary surveys, he says: "But doctrine cannot be taught effectively through the promulgation of regulations." Continuing with his anti-regulatory stance he gets to the heart of his position by stating that, "At worst, it will mask the true nature of the problem (italics mine), for no surveyor now deficient will become competent merely by complying with them."
My first reaction to this is: well, duh!
It just isn’t fair. I never said, or pretended, that the problem could be resolved, single-handedly, by creating a national standard. I was very clear in this regard. I wrote that, "All avenues for strengthening boundary work should be addressed including: state law, state board rules, continuing education, degree requirements and national standards of practice." It’s dishonest of Mr. Leininger to misrepresent my ideas in such a way as to fortify his own argument. Obviously, the problem is too complex to expect that any single approach would "fix" it. I simply feel that a national standard for records of survey would be one way for "…encouraging proper boundary work…."
My second reaction has to do with the logic of Mr. Leininger’s article as a whole. In his final paragraph he says that "…there are three legs to the solution: appropriate education, more effective pre-licensure evaluation, and meaningful enforcement."
What? Meaningful enforcement? But wait a minute! Enforcement of what? Rules, laws and regulations, one would presume. But tell me this, is enforcement enhanced or hindered by rules, laws and regulations that are incomplete and/or vague on the subject of what goes into a proper boundary resolution? It was one of the central concepts of my article that much of the poor quality of boundary work being done can be traced back to the fact that our laws and regulations are inexplicably vague on the subject, and that by "spelling out" the basic requirements of a proper resolution in our laws we would be removing one of the excuses being used by surveyors doing substandard work.
Meaningful enforcement? Exactly my point. Intrinsic, indeed essential, to this idea is that the laws being enforced need to be clear enough and spelled out enough that surveyors cannot hide behind them. It is simply a non sequitur to state that "more laws do not ensure better surveys" and then conclude that "meaningful enforcement" is the solution to the problem. Really, this logic baffles me.
As to the statement that "…for no surveyor now deficient will become competent merely by complying with them [regulations]," once again Mr. Leininger gets a lot of mileage out of the word "merely." Whoever has made such a claim? Certainly I have not. Once again, it is not fair to prop up your own position by misrepresenting mine.
Let’s use one of my specific examples to explore this idea a bit further. I have stated that I have personally discussed California law on boundary surveys with numerous surveyors who have interpreted them to require only that one has to "note" the book and page of the deed or map of the adjoiner parcel to successfully comply with the brief, one-sentence comment about boundary resolutions in California statues. In other words, in all honesty, they have looked me in the eye and said that it is not necessary to actually analyze the adjoiner deeds and "bring them into the resolution" of the boundary of the subject parcel.
But this flies in the face of all that I have ever learned about proper boundary work in my career. I am of the opinion that one must fully address the deeds of all adjoining parcels; that is, they should be analyzed to determine if they do, or do not, cause any conflicts (gaps or overlaps) with the subject parcel deed. Does not Leininger agree with this? If so, then why would he object to a rewriting of this part of state law to more fully describe how one should "address adjoining deeds?"
I am here to tell you that many substandard surveys are being done in this regard, and that surveyors are hiding behind the ambiguity of the law. It seems to me that only by engaging in Mr. Leininger’s dreaded "more law" can we remove this one avenue for sloppy work. Only by fleshing out this too-brief statue can we ever hope to achieve more meaningful enforcement.
And it is not just a matter of getting "more law" stuffed into the statutes. This is just another way to couch my position negatively; I don’t appreciate that, and it does nothing to further the discussion. If "Point to Point" aspires to make a scholarly contribution to a discussion on boundary surveying, I would suggest that its author react more seriously to those he critiques.
One last example of how I was misrepresented. Midway through his article, in bold letters he poses the question: "Regulations a Cure-all?" Well, of course not. I never came close to suggesting that. It’s insulting to try one’s best to put forth a serious idea, only to have it denigrated in this way…provocation for provocation’s sake.
A national standard for records of survey would put pressure on those of us doing substandard boundary surveys. It may not single-handedly solve the problem, but it could help raise the bar. It is a complex problem, requiring a complex solution. Why limit the solution to only three legs?
R. Lee Hixson, LS
Yuba City, CA
Upon my first glance at the title of [Leininger’s] column, I thought, "Oh no! Another East Coast surveyor talking about nationalizing a surveying function!" I was pleasantly surprised.
I couldn’t agree more. As a California land surveyor, I am subjected to some of the most stringent recording acts of any state. And yet, there are still those California surveyors who argue that filing a Record of Survey is not necessary under certain conditions even though there are Attorney General opinions refuting their arguments.
The California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BPELS) is a relatively strong Board. Its enforcement staff faces significant challenges in properly reviewing complaints and carrying out disciplinary proceedings. This is not to say that California is full of licensed "yahoos" playing at practicing land surveying. Rather, it is an example of a real situation. California has a Board. It also has stringent laws governing the practice of land surveying. There are still problems.
At the National level, there is no governing body with authority. The ACSM, the NSPS and the NCEES are professional organizations without any official or sanctioned authority of any kind. There is no legal authority to enforce any regulations at the national level. Just as the ACSM/ALTA standards are unenforceable (except by clients under breach of contract laws), the national "Record of Survey" would be equally unenforceable. There would be even more problems. Perhaps our founding fathers had the right idea when they left much of the internal regulation to the individual states rat her than the federal government. Is it time to dust off our copies of "The Federalist Papers"? I don’t believe there is any authority for the federal government to create its own national survey law. To get all 50 states to accept and agree to a uniform standard across the country would be impractical, if not impossible. Even if it were possible, "…no surveyor now deficient will become competent merely by complying with (the laws)…"
As [Leininger] points out, a uniform, national survey "law" would be enormous and confusing. The practice of land surveying is vastly different from coast to coast. As a California surveyor, my mind boggles at the apparent lack of a structure that the surveyors in the Colonial states face daily. The rigors of working within a structure such as the Public Land Survey System must be quite daunting to the Colonial surveyors, too. Even within California, there are differences. In Riverside County, the minimum standard monument is a 1" iron pipe 18" long. In Fresno County, the pipe must be 30" long. In San Diego, a 5/8" rebar with a plastic cap is sufficient. How much worse are the differences when the whole nation must be accounted for? Trying to resolve the various systems and codify a single "boundary requirement" at a national level would be almost absurd.
In the end, [the] statement "…doctrine cannot be taught effectively through the promulgation of regulations…" carries the message. Why is there even a faint call for a national Record of Survey? Is it to address the incompetence of a few? There are far better ways to deal with that problem than adding more laws.
I look forward to reading [Leininger’s] insights into the "…three legs (of) education, effective pre-licensure evaluation, and meaningful enforcement."
Impressive Charter Issue. The American Surveyor has strong potential, and I wish you the best of luck with your new publication.
Comments on the Charter Issue
Yesterday I received my copy of The American Surveyor Magazine. I was very impressed from the first scan through just to look at the pictures. After sitting down and reading several of the articles I was even more impressed. The articles related more to what I think are the more common daily surveying issues I encounter. If this is any indication of the content and emphasis of the magazine will be in the future, I will definitely be looking forward to each and every issue. Thank you for publishing a magazine that I, as a surveyor in the average survey line of work, can relate to.
Daniel Ehlmann, LS
Looks like you are off to a great start. It has been a while since I have read a surveying magazine from front to back and enjoyed every page! If the Charter Issue is an indication of things to come, you have winner.
Darryl Zercher, LS
Mr. Robillard is right on target with his assessment of the surveying profession. I, for one, have been attempting to do something about it. The local second grade classes go on a historical walk through town and meet various citizens of the community from 100 to 200 years ago. One of the first people they meet as soon as they get off the bus is Benaiah Robinson, County Surveyor from 1820 to 1853. I have been portraying Benaiah for three years now, and have been getting very positive feedback. Parents accompany the children on the walk and I can’t get over how many of them come up afterwards and ask questions about surveying and surveyors. I have bought my costume that fits into an 1820 to 1830 time period. I have purchased and made accessories to go with my antique compasses and chains to further demonstrate my craft. As a result of my demonstrations, I have been contacted by other classes to do demonstrations from the grade school to college level. My talks vary in subject matter from mapmaking, to the history of surveying, to practical trigonometry through surveying, to a primer on GPS. Unfortunately, due to the time and pressures of running a small business, I cannot perform this task as often as I would like. Among my `treasures’ in my office are letters and pictures from the students I have talked to. I hope my efforts make an impact. If more of us strive to infuse ourselves not only in the local business organizations, but in the schools, we may find our profession held in higher esteem. Thank you for your publication, and I look forward to my next issue.
Jeff Pauk, LS
I read my husband’s new American Surveyor with real interest (and I am not a surveyor–though I can sometimes hold the prism pole plumb!) I have an interest in geology, so the article "The Line Between Sandstone and Quartzite" was so interesting to me. You have produced a magazine which is also interesting to non-professionals. Great articles-thanks much!
Your magazine is like a breath of fresh air. The articles are so interesting and right on target. I am a registered nurse married to a tough, proud, experienced surveyor. My surveyor has been surveying for fifty years and he has no plans to quit. Our grandsons, who have followed in his footsteps of surveying, are constantly amazed at his expertise. He is like a hound dog when he is searching for a corner or an iron pin. He never gives up until he has found what he is looking for to make his survey of that property exact. Our family gatherings are all survey talk and I don’t think the men of our family would ever want another profession. They are all very proud of the profession they have chosen, and this includes our son who chose the profession despite his father’s warnings many years ago: "Son, don’t ever become a surveyor. It’s hard work and you will be pressed to make a good living for your family." My surveyor went on to disprove this statement and so did our son. They are very proud to be counted as members of the honored profession of surveying.
Wilma Isaacs McCann
Congratulations on your new American Surveyor magazine. The articles in your charter issue are all relevant to our profession, and they bring back nostalgic memories to me, the inveterate "old-time" surveyor. As you know, our profession has changed exponentially during my career-from the old standard transit and steel tape to the total station; from the Monroe rotary calculator and trig tables to the hand-held HP, then the data collector and the download to a graphic screen; from drafting tables to AutoCAD and ArcInfo computer mapping; from wet-lab aerial photos to rectified digital orthophotos; from best-available area maps to full coverage USGS quad maps; from yellow field notebooks to CD/ROM; from sun shots to GPS; from metes-and-bounds to coordinate descriptions-and many more-cell phones, fax machines, GIS and the Internet. I’m sure that the technology of measuring the earth will soar appreciably in yours and the next generation, and I’m pleased to see that your new publication is dedicated "to inform, educate, entertain and inspire." Your first issue is off to a good start. Bravo!
Oklahoma City, OK
Congratulations on a truly inspired and inspirational Charter Issue of The American Surveyor. With 14 registered surveyors and 27 field crews, your magazine will be a must-read at [our company]. Your list of contributing writers, initial articles and balance of copy to ads all speak of quality. Although I am not even a surveyor, I will look forward to future issues. All the best in your venture!
Bill Schmid, AICP
Is there something you’d like to say? We always enjoy hearing from our readers. You can contact us via our website at www.theamerican surveyor.com, or send a letter to: The American Surveyor, P.O. Box 4162, Frederick, MD 21705-4162. We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Due to the variety of titles used by registered surveyors throughout the U.S., we follow the NCEES convention and use LS (Licensed Surveyor).
A 1.381Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE