Guest Editorial: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us—Pogo

A 110Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Over the last couple of years, I have had the pleasure of writing for American Surveyor Magazine. In the course of this endeavor, I have spent a lot of time with editor Marc Cheves and we have had a number of talks about content and topics. I also spent a lot of time with the late Curtis M. Brown and through our relationship, he bequeathed a considerable portion of his works to me and, through an arrangement with the magazine, excerpts from Curt’s lectures and articles are released every month; the magazine serves as an extension of Curt’s philosophies.

Marc recently received a letter from California surveyor John M. Knox. Therein he criticizes recent articles and in commenting on those written by Chad and Linda Erickson and presumably, my articles regarding FEMA, civil engineers, and architects, he used words like "bashing" and "mass hysteria." I am puzzled by his comments that we are bashing or attacking anyone. Let’s recap.

The FBI has launched a massive investigation into FEMA’s mapping division and states and counties across the country have documented a host of problems with FEMA’s inaccurate maps. A large number of taxpayers are being coerced into paying outrageous premiums for insurance they don’t need. This is a hot topic in Congress and the creation of these maps and the reports associated with same are largely the province of land surveyors. We did not make that story up. It is referred to as "current affairs."

As to bashing civil engineers, I am assuming Mr. Knox is referring to the decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court wherein the court determined that a civil engineer placed a two-million dollar house on the wrong lot. That is what we call news and no one made that up. We are supposed to learn something from mistakes like this and the way we learn is through the news and articles like the ones found in this magazine.

As for the BLM, after decades of upsetting various neighborhoods around the country, it is about time they were challenged. If Mr. Knox had spent some time looking into the Erickson’s complaint, he would realize the points are valid. Indeed, the emperor has no clothes. Many BLM surveyors are not licensed and their work creates as many problems as FEMA.

As to Mr. Knox’s accusation that the magazine is "drifting" to the "stodgy, and the cranky," I find that a curious observation. Whenever I lecture, the one thing younger surveyors want to learn about is boundary determination and boundary law. Indeed their biggest lament is there is no one around to teach them. Many of the country’s most notable surveyors, including Curtis M. Brown, Roy Minnick, Bud Uzes, and Paul Cuomo are no longer with us and, as any student of land surveying knows, the vast majority of their work involved boundary line determination and a healthy respect for the law. They properly recognized that the law changes almost as much as the technology.

Marc Cheves has been a survey magazine editor for 20 years, and over this span of time, he has introduced American surveyors to a great deal of technology. The magazine continues to celebrate surveying, both the past and the future. It is something we should all do.

Mr. Knox’s observation that "all young surveyors establish and monument property lines by coordinates, even if they happen to trip over an original monument while navigating their RTK unit" is a valid criticism. It is my opinion that the vast majority of young surveyors in fact do this and yes, this is a problem. Satellites and robots do not teach one how to survey.

In closing, I would like to invite Mr. Knox to select a topic of interest and share it with the magazine’s readers. Let us see how you tell your story, and please don’t be stodgy.

A 110Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE