I heard an interesting political analogy the other day, and it caused me to reflect on the many discussions and varying interests within the ranks of professional surveyors. The analogy was that of a married couple disagreeing over what color to repaint the living room, while a mob of zombies was breaking in the front door to eat them. Obviously addressing the zombies was more important, and if not addressed correctly and promptly, the color of the living room would quickly become irrelevant.
Many discussions, both public and private that I’m aware of or included in, expend energy and time on the finer points (minutiae) of technical standards, which sort of practices infringe on the legal definitions of surveying and engineering, how to properly scale from grid to ground, how far we should go with notes and disclaimers on plats, and so forth. Granted that these are all important topics, but not very different than the color of that proverbial living room. The zombies on the front porch are tired of waiting on getting their surveys completed. They don’t care how much they cost or what we have to go through to complete them, they just want them completed.
In the southeast, just pertaining to developments that I’m aware of, there is plenty to alarm anyone that is concerned with the immediate future of surveying. We’ve all been “alarmed” for years, looking at the age of the average surveyor, our declining numbers, the lack of interest by younger generations. But that day that has been long prophesied about has arrived. Consider these few developments from 2023. In Georgia, a state legislator approached a lobbyist who represents the Surveying and Mapping Society of Georgia (SAMSOG) with a proposal to grant eligibility to sit for the PLS exam to anyone holding a PE license, no further education or surveying experience required. SAMSOG was effective in discouraging such legislation, at least for this year. In North Carolina, Senate Bill 677 would have created a route for a “limited” land surveying license for anyone with 18 months of experience that could pass the state specific (not the NCEES battery) exam, with a route for full licensure after obtaining an additional 30 months of experience. My hat is off to the North Carolina Society of Surveyors (NCSS) for working hard to avoid this disaster. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, HB52 would have required giving certified mail notice to all adjacent property owners prior to starting a survey. The Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors (TAPS) worked hard to open the eyes of the legislators and defeat this bill which would have caused even more delays and additional expense for the surveying world. But possibly more important was SB1105 which repealed the Soil Scientist Licensure Act and effectively deregulated soil classification in Tennessee. It was deemed that it was too hard to find a licensed soil scientist, and too hard to become one, so they just did away with it. Sound like a familiar scenario?
That’s just what I’ve followed in the three states that I primarily practice in. I’m sure there are similar occurrences across this great nation. It seems that while everyone was understanding about lengthy delays during the Covid era, surveying is still frustratingly understaffed. Nothing much was done during these last 20 years besides saying that there is a shortage coming and that “we’d better do something” about it. It’s here. Now we don’t have much of a choice. We may have to hold our noses and work to make the licensure process more streamlined, lower a bar or two just a little bit, and take real steps to make the profession one that is financially attractive to new talent. If we don’t, these three legislatures give us a glimpse at what sort of solutions will be implemented by the impatient zombies.
—Mark Chastain, PS