March 2005I read Mr. Klauss' letter with dismay. New Mexico was one of the states I was considering for my semi-retirement, but as a California LS without a four-year degree I would be in the same position if I moved there. It is a shame that New Mexico has such tunnel vision, and places so much emphasis on a four-year degree versus 20-plus years of experience. A four-year degree teaches someone how to read and write, but will never become a substitute for real world work experience.
Rules governing a profession should be voted on and passed by the licensed professionals in that state, not introduced and voted on by some state-appointed board or legislative body whose only knowledge of the issues is what they hear from lobbyists hired by NCEES and other self-serving academia.
To obtain a four-year degree in land surveying (which is becoming a five-year degree) in California, students are limited to two schools: one east of Los Angeles in Pomona and the other in the central valley town of Fresno. And apparently [there is] only one in New Mexico at Las Cruces. A degree in civil engineering is avaliable from three colleges within 25 miles of central Orange County. This requires a major commitment from most students since, in addition to tuition and books, they will be required to pay for "away from home" living expenses. I can attest that in the late 1990s this was $25,000 per year living frugally in Fresno. Why would anyone want to [get] $100,000 in debt to receive a degree in a profession [where] starting pay is maybe $30,000 per year? Especially when the same college commitment can get them a degree in civil engineering, a field that has more prestige and pays 25 percent more? And, as far [as] a government employment career is concerned, how many CEs are employed at your city, and how many, if any, LSs do they employ?
I predict that in a few years these states with four-year degree requirements will not have enough applicants to cover the cost of preparing and giving a land surveyor exam. When that happens, the more politically powerful civil engineering community will push for giving CEs the right to survey. Since most civil engineering programs require no more than a single one semester class in land surveying-or maybe not even that much-I foresee a drastic degradation of the quality of land survey services. And it is the public who will suffer due to the short-sightedness of state land survey boards.
Walter T. Foster, an uneducated LS in California
February 2005: Traversing the Law[This] article attempted to disprove just about everything I have learned for the past 30-plus years I have been involved with the surveying profession. Call me from the old school, but it will be a cold day in you-know-where before I discredit or throw out a "called for" monument found conducting a survey. I don't care how long an incorrectly positioned boundary line has been used.
In my opinion, recovered "called for" evidence is paramount to incorrectly positioned boundary lines established merely by occupation and time. Retracement surveys require the land surveyor to get into the mind of his predecessor and even the minds of the grantor and grantee at the time the original survey was conducted. The land surveyor needs to retrace, not to accept later errors in measurement.
I am presently attempting to find out the status of New York state regarding this matter. Hopefully we haven't fallen into the mindset of the other states that have approved legislation to merely satisfy mortgage and title insurance companies.
Gerald A. Kostyk, PLS
Author Jeffery Lucas responds:
I appreciate your comments and I understand your concerns. Most surveyors have been taught, either through formal education or through apprenticeship, that called for monuments are paramount. This is true and not true. Called for monuments are vested with power through the intent of the grantor and the grantee. It is generally presumed that because monuments are called for in the deed of conveyance, they reflect the intent of the parties to the conveyance.
The problem for surveyors is that we cannot dogmatically accept all called for monuments as gospel. Monuments can be defeated (even called for monuments) if the true intent of the parties, especially the intent of the grantor, can be shown to be otherwise. In addition, called for monuments can be defeated by unwritten transfers. Occupancy rights that have ripened into legal rights defeat all written transfers and the monuments called for in those transfers.
And finally, title that is protected by state law will defeat called for monuments. Two examples: 1) state owned property and 2) title protected by the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA). No amount of intent or adverse possession will ever divest the state of property that it has not conveyed, called for monuments notwithstanding. Similarly, those states that have adopted MRTA legislation have decided that long-held title and occupation will not be defeated by ancient claims-including claims as to mistake in location.
Monuments are not paramount. Monu-ments only acquire the power that is conveyed to them through the intent of the grantor and grantee. And the intent of the grantor and grantee can be defeated by other forces. If we are to survive as a viable profession into the future, as property values escalate and litigation over these issues increases, we must open our minds to the issues that affect the ultimate correct determination of boundary lines. We have been taught and our survey texts insist that property rights are a non-survey issue. In my opinion, this is wrong thinking, and if carried to its eventual conclusion, will render the profession impotent.
In direct response to your inquiry, New York does not appear to have enacted MRTA legislation. This does not mean, however, that there is not New York case law that will render the same effect. But the question of ancient claims uprooting quiet title, which has been around since the days of Judge Cooley and before, is a public policy issue that is going to intensify with time, not dissipate. Especially if examples continue to reach the headlines of our newspapers, as they have been over the last several years, casting a dark shadow over the entire profession because surveyors have refused to recognize basic property rights.
Many surveyors share your opinion, Mr. Kostyk. As a matter of fact, yours may be the majority opinion. My concern is not only for the profession, but for the public we serve. The public has the right to expect the land surveyor to make a correct determination of its boundary lines and that those boundary lines be legally defensible. They will not be if we refuse to recognize what the law has to say about where those lines can and cannot be placed.
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