It may be the recency effect, but as I listened to the discussion of government competition at the MAPPS winter conference, I couldn’t help pointing out one of the issues land surveyors face — rights of access.

There are two sides to the issue. One is the actual concern over providing legal rights of access for land surveyors to allow them to complete their work efficiently. The other is the fact there is little if any continuity state to state on statutory rights of access for land surveyors.

Researching the January article on the NEXUS gas pipeline, I heard from various sources that some states provide a statutory right of access for land surveyors and others do not. In fact, some states have laws which will penalize someone for impeding that work. So, feasibly, if you are denied access to an adjoining property in order to complete a survey and that delays a project, which in turn leads to costs or penalties for you or your client, the person impeding your work can be held criminally or at least civilly liable.

All of this was still swirling in my brain when MAPPS executives discussed government competition and efforts to promote privatization of commercial functions, which government entities may currently perform. I had heard during the NEXUS research that government surveyors typically have a right of access even where private surveyors may not, and a thought struck me.

There’s an opportunity here. If MAPPS is promoting a policy position on government competition that would shift commercially available land surveying and geospatial work from the government to the private sector, let’s ensure the surveyors performing that work have the same rights of access the government surveyors would have. If not, the work could encounter bumps along the way and the privatization argument could be defeated.

While we’re at it, why not push for some federal preemption through a blanket provision giving all land surveyors certain rights of access? This wouldn’t preclude liability for damage the surveyor might cause or other responsibilities licensed professionals already bear.

This doesn’t address the larger issue of a nationally recognized and accepted license, but it puts at least one important discussion related to land surveying on a national footing, and that could open the door down the road to arguing the case for a national license or reciprocity.

It might be asking too much, but if private-sector surveyors were to begin to take on the functions previously performed by government offices, could that work stipulate a “licensed land surveyor” and simply require that surveyors should perform their role in accordance with “applicable rules and practices?” That would include meeting federal as well as state standards.

If the prevailing sentiment in Washington, D.C., is toward smaller government and more private sector jobs, this may be a good step in that direction.

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