The merger of ACSM and NSPS is almost complete. What does this mean for the national organization, and how will these changes affect you?

In April 2010, it was apparent that ACSM would not be sustainable financially without some significant changes. The NSPS board of directors (BOD) voted to initiate the two-year withdrawal process from the organization. A little over a year later, representatives to the ACSM Congress approved a motion to disband and dissolve ACSM and turn over all operation, control, assets and liabilities to the NSPS through a merger of the two organizations. At that point, the NSPS began efforts to create a unified organization representative of the broader definition of surveying, including professional surveyors, geodesists and other geospatial professionals.

The merger is now nearly complete and is merely awaiting the transfer of official documents from Washington, D.C. So what happens next?

According to Robert Dahn, LLS, president of NSPS, the first order of business is to refocus the organization on its priorities. “In the process of negotiating the merger, a lot of our energy and resources were diverted,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve managed to maintain our programs, many of which are thriving. Now we can put our full focus back on our programs and on creating a more streamlined, unified organization that takes full advantage of all its resources to more efficiently and effectively serve all practitioners in the surveying community.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the organization is drawing increased participation. A letter from David Holland, NSPS governor in Virginia, sent to the members of the Virginia Association of Surveyors in May of this year, outlined the issue. “The vast majority of surveyors are not convinced that membership in NSPS is worth $225 a year,” the letter said. “As a matter of fact, about 10% of the approximately 25,000 surveyors who are members of state survey societies throughout the United States are also members of NSPS. For example, of the 560 dues paying members of the Virginia Association of Surveyors, only 65 members are dues paying members of NSPS. If this trend continues, we project that NSPS will follow the lead of ACSM and go bankrupt in three years. If that scenario plays out, the land surveying profession as we know it would be irreparably diminished.”

To reverse that trend and cultivate a strong relationship with the state societies, the NSPS board of governors proposed-and the BOD approved-an innovative approach: Drastically lower the NSPS dues to $40 per member for any state society that commits its “full” membership to NSPS membership. Each state society that makes this commitment will automatically have a seat on the BOD. The NSPS believes this will give the national organization a more representative voice and give the affiliates a greater voice in the operation of the national organization and in shaping the future of the profession.

According to Dahn, the initial response to the idea has been positive. “I’m actually more optimistic about the success of it now than I was when we embraced the concept at our meetings in March,” he said. “Despite the fact that our membership represents a very small percentage of the licensed surveyors in the country, we’ve had incredible success with our government affairs activities-our representation of the profession in the halls of government and with regulatory agencies. It’s always been our opinion that with a greater population, we could improve on that effort even further. We would like to find a way to represent all of the 50 state affiliates and all of their memberships as well.”

The NSPS has begun to review and make amendments to its bylaws. Changes in membership definitions will be proposed that would facilitate members of “affiliate organizations”-groups such as AAGS, whose members fit within the broad definition of surveying-becoming full participating members in NSPS. “Surveying is a broad field, and it has lots of different parts,” said Curt Sumner, NSPS executive director. “NSPS would like to represent all of those parts through a membership that encompasses all of those practitioners if possible, or at least people who practice in specific areas that fall under the overall surveying definition.”

The proposed bylaws amendments will be presented to the BOD at the NSPS fall meeting in September. Although the ACSM name will not be used, Dahn said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it might be resurrected in the future or that an entirely different name for the organization might eventually be chosen.

Ultimately the goal of the organization is to better represent the individuals it serves. “We excel at governmental affairs,” Dahn said. “We’ve had great success with our certified survey technician program, and we do extensive work with ABET accreditation for surveying programs. We also spend a lot of time and effort with organizations like NCEES to accomplish things on behalf of surveyors. With a strong, unified organization, we can improve on those already successful programs.

“Surveying in all its forms is a constantly evolving profession, and NSPS intends to evolve with the profession,” he continued. “NSPS invites everyone who makes a career in ‘surveying’ to join the national voice and be a part of shaping the future of the profession.”

What do you think? Is the NSPS on the right track? Will the state societies support the new fee structure? Share your comments below.