Surveying GIS

August 2008

I wanted to express my thanks to you and Michael L. Binge for the recent series of articles on implementing GIS (“Surveying GIS: Developing a new GIS.”). His five-part series was very well written and direct. This series of articles helped me bring together research and other source information to a concise plan that I have been working on for a few years now.

I am currently working on an implementation strategy for a division of a major mining company with large amounts of land-based assets. The current [levels of] reporting and asset control for government and corporate needs are becoming unmanageable with standard hard-copy maps and spreadsheets.

Please pass on my appreciation to Mr. Binge for his contribution to the magazine.

Wayne King

Editor’s note: The entire series can be found online at


August 2008

I I think John Boney (“Letters,” August 2008) must have skipped the first couple of lines in the article “Time for Action” (“Editor’s Points,” April 2008), which read: “The ‘Education Debate’ continues in the surveying profession. In general, parties remain divided on whether two years or four years of formal schooling should be required to sit for the licensure exam.” Since Mr. Boney seems to think all it takes to be a land surveyor is to be “in the woods and like the woods,” I thought I would check into the qualifications for licensure for Alabama foresters vs. professional land surveyors. It seems the State of Alabama does think it is “all about education.” Below are the qualifications from the Alabama Board of Registration for Foresters. (The Web site for the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Land Surveyors is

s34-12-4. Qualification of applicants for registration.[1]
(a) The following requirements shall be considered as minimum evidence satisfactory to the board that the applicant is qualified to practice forestry and to be registered and licensed pursuant to this chapter. Each applicant shall:

(1) Hold a bachelor's or higher degree from a school approved by the board or accredited by the Society of American Foresters in a forestry curriculum accepted by the board.

(2) Have passed a written or oral examination, or both, designed to show the knowledge and skill obtained through graduation from the school or college.

(3) Have a specific record of two years or more of experience in the practice of forestry of a nature satisfactory to the board and indicating that the applicant is competent to practice forestry.

(4) Be a person of good character and reputation.

(b) The board shall issue licenses only to those applicants who meet the requirements of this section. (Acts 1957, No. 533, p. 750, s 2; Acts 1961, E. Ses., No.141, p. 2082; Acts 1969, No.1051, p. 1965, s 6; Acts 1973, No. 1202, p. 2020, s 5)

You can also find Rules of Professional Conduct on the forestry Web site ( I’ve listed #8 below, which I interpret to mean that he [each applicant] should advise his clients to call a licensed professional land surveyor if needed.

Rule of Professional Conduct #8
He will engage, or advise his principal, client or employer to engage other experts and specialists in forestry and related fields whenever the client’s or employer’s interests would be best served by such actions and will cooperate freely with them in their work.

Rule #9 states: “He [each applicant] will aid in safeguarding against the registration of persons unqualified because of lack of good moral character or of adequate training” (emphasis added), yet he [Boney] would not expect us to do the same to protect our profession.

Darlene Owen, PLS

Traversing the Law

August 2008

I am always enlightened by Mr. Lucas’ 2000-word magazine articles. His monthly diatribes, which are “focusing on the surveyor’s misunderstanding,” would make even Atticus Finch proud. However, using my “between the lines” reading glasses, one thing is obvious each and every month. He definitely has a “glass half empty” attitude toward our profession. Case in point: The August edict could have been titled “Florida court tells plaintiff’s surveyor how to survey.” The defendant won that case because his surveyor was a true professional. The Florida court did not tell him how to survey. It scolded the bad apple that in this case just happens to be a surveyor. He very easily could have become an attorney, engineer, architect, math teacher, plumber. Bad apples exist everywhere! We all know someone that should have their license revoked for not following minimum standards. Perhaps Mr. Lucas could expound on why the state licensing boards continue to turn a blind eye to these individuals.

Rob Johnston, PLS

Jeff Lucas responds:Thank you for your thought-provoking letter. I get exactly the opposite letter from many other readers, which goes to show that I will never make everyone happy. I suppose the reason for my “preachy” style is because in the early part of my career I was as misguided as the best of them. I did not have a full (or even a half-full) understanding of what our duties and responsibilities are as land surveyors. Therefore, but for the grace of God there go I. What you perceive as preaching I perceive as commentary. But you are probably more correct on this [than I], and in POB magazine I imagine I’m preaching to the choir. The surveyors who need the sermon probably don’t even subscribe to POB or any other professional publication.

If I didn’t care about land surveyors and the land surveying profession, I wouldn’t waste my time writing about our problems and trying to point out some ways we can make both better. If this comes off as “better than thou,” you mistake exhortation for disdain.

Traversing the Law

August 2008

I always enjoy reading articles that are intended to be of an educational nature; however, Mr. Lucas writes in a style that presumes that all surveyors, other than himself, must be lazy, ignorant oafs. His statement in his August column, “…embarrassment for the profession,” to me implies that surveyors are the only professionals that are not always up to par. Have you read any good articles on lawyers or doctors lately? Mr. Lucas is correct-there are some surveyors working out there that should give up their licenses. I would contend that there are at least as many surveyors working out there that try very hard to keep up with technology and the law as it changes at a an exponential rate. I only wish I was as good a surveyor as Mr. Lucas seems to imply he is so that I could be as pious as his article makes him sound. By all means, continue your effort to help inform surveyors, but climb down off of the pulpit and maybe you will be appreciated, as other authors are, for your contribution to our profession. I pray that you never make a mistake or have an error in judgment as I believe you will receive little mercy from your peers. As for P.O.B., I know that you can find other authors of works that aren’t quite so offensive to read and read we must in order to try and keep up with this rapidly changing world.

Martin L. Sikorski, PLS, CLA, PP, CPSI
New Jersey

Jeff Lucas responds:Thank you for your letter. I have never claimed to be better than any other surveyor. As a matter of fact, I have claimed the exact opposite. Perhaps that’s why you perceive my articles the way you do. No one is going to be harder on a smoker than an ex-smoker. In what I read and study there are a lot of smokers out there who need to drop their bad habits. If that offends you, then let me assure you it is not my intention to make everyone feel good when there are so many problems that we need to address as a profession. I am sure, as you suggest, there are an equal or greater number of problems in the legal and medical professions. I’m not really as concerned about their problems as I am with ours, are you? I understand and expect that the vast majority of POB readers are the ones who really try to fulfill the duties and obligations that the land surveyor has to society. I bring those readers the cases that involve errors, omissions, torts, negligence and outright illegal activity on the part of surveyors so that they will never have to live those experiences themselves. If in your mind, this makes me “pious,” then I will gladly wear that label if in the process I help one or two surveyors avoid the mistakes of others. And if you think I have never made mistakes as a surveyor then, I am sorry to say, you are woefully mistaken. But I am trying to learn from them. The one overall lesson that I have learned from all of these cases that I have read, studied and written about is this: Once you and your opinion of survey are involved in a lawsuit, and the evidence and the law start to stack up against you, it might be time to change your opinion, which, it seems, the surveyors in these cases never do. If you do read about me in a case someday, it will be because I truly believed that the evidence and the law were on my side. And if I lose? Well, contrary to what you may believe, nobody is perfect, not even me.  

Traversing the Law

June 2008

The tenor of the discussions on surveyor discussion sites, such as, and in several magazine articles and letters to the editor has bothered me for some time now. Surveyors are “staking out” extreme positions then defending the position in an unreasonable tone. If the author does not agree with a “fence surveyor” or a “deed staker,” the author derides that person as not only wrong but stupid, as well.

When I read “Traversing the Law” in the June issue of POB (incidentally, the first article that I read every month), I was struck by the statement that surveyors should never use proportionate measurement. Certainly there are cases where this tool has been misused, but there are many instances where it must be used. Here in the West, where there are whole townships devoid of original corners, proportionate measurement is commonly used. While it is true that proportionate measurement should be used as a last resort, that principle is not inconsistent with the situation where it is the only option available.

Surveyors have many tools in their “toolbox.” The tools range from GPS receivers and computers to hand compasses and shovels. Some surveys, such as aerial control surveys, can be done with GPS receivers and computers only. Other surveys, such as a reconnaissance survey to locate existing corners, can be done with a hand compass and shovel. Most surveys fall in the middle, and the professional surveyor must decide what tools to use.

Surveyors also have a “mental toolbox.” The tools range from accepting fence corners to staking deed dimensions and, yes, even using math! The professional surveyor must use the mental tools that are appropriate for the survey at hand. Pejorative terms such as “fence surveyor,” “deed staker” or now “math user” really do not educate surveyors in how to conduct boundary analysis. Actually, a professional surveyor should be proud to be called any of these terms in the appropriate situation. I am more concerned about a surveyor who decides to eliminate the use of one of these tools before even beginning to gather evidence.

In his book “Land Survey Descriptions,” William C. Wattles discusses a principle of deed interpretation then cautions that “the contrary may be shown.”[2] His clear message is that surveyors need to consider all evidence and only then reach a conclusion regarding which methods to use in arriving at a boundary solution. Surveyors should not use some preconceived notion and then simply gather evidence that supports that notion.

Where are the open-minded giants of our profession today?

Michael J. O’Hern, PLS

Editor’s Note: Jeff Lucas’ August column, (“Florida court tells surveyors how to survey,”) has received some lengthy responses. In an effort to recognize these perspectives while not occupying our entire “Letters” section, we have placed these responses exclusively on our Web site.


1. Forestry Law, Code of Alabama, Chapter 12 – Foresters, 1975, online at

2. Wattles, William C., “Land Survey Descriptions.” Wattles Publications, Tustin, Calif., 1974.

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB. Send your thoughts to the editor atpobeditor@bnpmedia.