Should only licensed surveyors and engineers be legally allowed to use high-precision GPS instruments to make maps in Arizona?
The Arizona Professional Land Surveyors (APLS) are circulating a 'white paper' entitled "Geospatial Debate" (http://sco.az.gov/WhitePaper_v6.pdf) that questions who should be allowed to use sub-meter accuracy GPS units to map natural and man-made features. It was prepared in response to a complaint to the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration (SBTR) by a licensed surveyor protesting non-surveyors using such units. [above: AZGS geologists locating earth fissures in Maricopa County, using a sub-meter resolution GPS unit. Will surveyors have to oversee geologists mapping natural hazards like these?]
It falls on the heels of a recently dismissed federal lawsuit at the national level to restrict map making to surveyors and engineers (see my blogs on June 15 and May 14). In the wake of that contentious battle, earth scientists are wary.
The paper talks about the need for "... surveyors or engineers to take an aggressive and proactive stance against non registrants using this equipment [ ie, sub-meter GPS]..."
The paper does state that, "The GO Committee believes the best approach is to focus on the use of geospatial data and not on the licensing, registration or certification of geospatial professionals as a general rule. The Committee believes that whether geospatial data are used as an “authoritative” location of a boundary or geographic feature is the most relevant aspect of whether geospatial data must be developed by a registered professional."
But the options laid out for the APLS members to consider are to "do nothing," adopt model national restrictions, or adopt rules like those in Oregon that also include the national restrictions.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) model guidelines define land surveying as “… the making of geometric measurements and gathering related information pertaining to the physical or legal features of the earth, improvements on the earth, the space above, on, or below the earth… providing, utilizing, or developing the same into survey products such as graphics, data, maps, plans, reports, descriptions, or projects" [emphasis added].
Clearly this crosses over to the roles of geologists and others. APLS is preparing to develop recommendations to take to the SBTR. Geologists need to get engaged in this debate.