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  The American Surveyor     

Educating the Public about Surveying Print E-mail
Written by Chris Wickern, LS   
Friday, 27 November 2009

Whose Responsibility Is It?

The importance of Boundaries and Boundary Surveyors has been fading from common and public knowledge for decades. No where is the historic importance of Surveying and Boundaries demonstrated more strongly than the Bible; Proverbs 22: 28; Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set. Hosea 5: 10 the princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark; I will pour out My wrath on them like water. Ezekiel Chapters 40: 3 He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway.

What has happened from the ancient times; when it was taught that those who would disturb a landmark would face the wrath of the Almighty, and He sent His Surveyor to stand in the gateway? In the last several decades, the Abstractor became Title Companies, and now seem to be little more than insurance agents more interested in a cost/ benefit analysis than protecting their client or the public; Title Attorneys are generally really good at chasing documents, dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s”, but not always understanding what is actually described or how it all works together, and Realtors seem to understand that Surveying is expensive. It’s not really needed. After all, the fence has been there for years, and the owner said the other corner is down by the utility pole. The general public has been relying on these ‘experts’ in related professions for assurances of where the boundaries are. Very often the sum total of a buyer’s boundary knowledge is gained by asking questions of the other Professionals involved in the transfer of Real Property, and they most often have little understanding of land boundary’s, how they are established, and how they are perpetuated. Pointing fingers and blaming these related professions for this isn’t entirely fair or true. We allowed this to happen. As we were being excluded we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that no one else can perform surveys, and eventually they would have to come to us for boundary services. All we accomplished was to allow other professions, with little or no knowledge, to educate the public on our behalf. Surveyors across the nation decided we would educate the public “one client at a time” knowing they would have to come to us, and this has been going on for many years now. The results are in for that effort. We now have a handful of knowledgeable clients, and our Profession is in trouble.

We didn’t get to this point overnight and there are no ‘Easy’ buttons for us to press and magically resolve the issues. They are many, the solutions won’t be easy and it will take a concerted effort at the local, state, and at the national level. It will take time. There are few guarantees’ in this world, but if there is one I am confident in, it would be; there will never be a positive solution with you the Land Surveyor sitting on the sidelines. It has been clearly demonstrated over the years that those in related professions who should understand the importance of boundary surveying have created their own ‘Easy” buttons, ‘just initial here at the Survey Exception’ is just one example. Educating the public is a daunting and seemingly insurmountable effort.

The good news is; there are solutions!

The solutions lie with us and our willingness to work toward this common goal. More than anything else, it will take the commitment from you, the individual Land Surveyor. Most of us would rather be caned than be proactive. I know because I have been the one sitting next to you at the back of the room at conferences. We have listened together and carried on the discussion while on break, and we also agreed that; “the Society or someone should do something”; “I don’t have time”; “Too much for me to tackle”, sound familiar? Our inactions are just as much to blame as the related professions finding ways to work around us. Surveyors need to become ambassadors for the profession, salesmen of our knowledge and our expertise to other professions in the business of land transfers, and to the public we are sworn to protect. Yes, it really does all boil down to you. What will you do, or what you will not do to further the profession?

 Our history clearly shows that we have sown and done little in the past, and we are reaping those rewards now. We as Surveyors must do what we have failed to do in the past and become proactive. Like it or not, marketing and sales are important parts of business. They are also an important part of the Profession, and there is no one more qualified to explain the importance of Boundary Surveying than the Surveyor.

Educating those in these related professions is an important part of the very broad task of Educating the Public. All of these professions are charged by the State with an obligation to protect the public. These professionals should be our advocates. Title folks, Attorney’s, and even Realtors are required to have continuing education in many States, and are always looking for fresh presentations. This is an opportunity for an individual or the State Society to contact these groups, generate interest in a course, get approved for their continuing education, and start to make a difference in how others view land surveying.

Many events and venues attract large crowds of the general public. There are annual events such as a local home and garden shows where the public is invited to view exhibits by builders, remodelers, etc. It also is an ideal place for a Surveyor to ask if they know where their boundary line exists, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to know where it is before they build? The State Fair always attracts great numbers and they are attended by a broad cross section of the public. The Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors took part in our 2009 Fair. We had nearly 22,000 people (potential clients) over 7 days stop by to discuss and ask questions about Surveying. Good numbers and a most enjoyable effort. These examples are nothing more than small steps on a very long journey. They must be repeated, reiterated, and expanded to other groups.

Make the commitment and seek opportunities to speak with and educate groups in your communities. Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, and other community groups are important organizations with members involved in your local community. These are our friends and neighbors who have little or no idea about boundary surveying or there importance. Ask to speak with them and give a short presentation at one of their luncheons. Get involved and help your State Society develop programs and ideas to present Land Surveying to others. We must also be proactive, speaking with and educating the public and our related professions in our communities, regionally, and nationally.

Let’s get the discussion and the concerted effort started. I can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Instead of the failed “one client at a time” effort to educate the public, we must be proactive. All it takes is you, a belief in the value of our Profession, and a desire to raise the perception of the Profession. At the end of this journey, the legacy we leave for those who follow our footsteps may be;

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance, Psalms 16:6. 

 
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