An Open Letter to Our Profession

Newsflash: As you are reading this article, the leaders of the three ACSM Member Organizations are meeting in Gaithersburg, MD with a facilitator to work out the details to reconstitute our national organization into one in which members belong to one entity, providing a stronger, more uniform voice on behalf of our profession. This action was precipitated by reaction to the notification several months ago from NSPS regarding its intension to withdraw as a Member Organization of ACSM. After having gauged the pulse of its members, potential members, and affiliates, and conferring with the two other ACSM MOs, the NSPS Board of Directors, during its recent business meeting, passed a motion to “meet with the other MOs to create a unified, singular national organization.” This is a positive step toward making our national organization stronger.

As I began to ponder how to address why surveyors need a national organization, it occurred to me that this represents both a statement and a question. 

Simply stated, if for no other reason, a national organization for surveyors is necessary because it is the primary conduit through which our profession can continue to demonstrate and maintain its very important position within the overall geospatial community and among those who influence how land management will look in the future. Without aggressive engagement in the ongoing decision-making process in this arena, it is my opinion that professional surveying has the potential to be marginalized to an ever smaller role. To allow this to happen would be irresponsible. 

While we collectively deal with these issues within our respective states and localities, it is the influence of federal government and the national organizations that represent our counterparts in the geospatial community that drives the agenda for the future of land management. Without the voice of the professional surveying community being heard through its own national organization, decisions will be made that may be detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the public to whom professional surveyors are responsible. Some of those decisions could even have the potential to unwittingly undermine our monument-based land tenure system as the foundation for defining property boundaries. 

Although not necessarily well recognized by its constituents, among the most critical activities of our national organization are its constant and aggressive lobbying effort and its interaction with other national organizations. While space is not available here to name all of its other activities, a couple that also may not readily come to mind include providing our representation to the international surveying community (FIG) from whom many lessons can be learned and managing the evaluation of the college and university surveying/geomatics programs seeking or renewing ABET accreditation. 

I must say that I am not often asked the question of whether or not we need a national organization for surveyors. Most people who talk with me about the subject seem to understand that it is important for such an organization to exist. A concern that does come up is related to the cost to surveyors of supporting the national organization. This is understandable, especially in these difficult economic times. This topic is on the top of the list during the ongoing meetings that were mentioned in the Newsflash at the beginning of this article. 

Clearly, there is a sentiment among surveyors that a national organization should be effective in pursuing its mission and successful in its efforts to demonstrate its effectiveness and relevance to members and potential members. This is a critical concern, for, without the support of those the organization strives to serve, it cannot exist. There is indeed strength in numbers, and the perpetuation of the national voice of the surveying community depends on the support it receives. 

-Curt Sumner, PLS
Executive Director
American Congress on Surveying and Mapping

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