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Surveyor (short film)

Posted By Burk Cornelius, Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Intriguing anti-western by first time director Scott Blake. A story of a government surveyor circa 1848 on a trek home after surveying land on the Western frontier. It's a highly accomplished period piece with meticulous attention to detail re: costumes, props, location. A rare formalist feat by a young filmmaker who appears to have no interest in the rickety realism he has every right making at his age, 26. Surveyor may require a little patience - it begins minimally and is long for a short at 25 minutes - but it's far from stagnant, and includes a notable last minute pivot into hallucinatory darkness. What begins as a rigorous exercise unfolds like a gothic nightmare - you can't quite make sense of it all, but it feels real. Impressive and mysterious debut film.

[Watch in full screen mode for higher quality video]


Tags:  GLO  government surveyor  section  western  western frontier 

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ALTA Surveys: Wetlands

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 13, 2016

The 2011 ALTA/ACSM Minimum Standard Detail Requirements wetlands are addressed in Table A Item 19. It read as follows:


“Location of wetland areas as delineated by appropriate authorities.”

In the new 2016 ALTA/NSPS Minimum Standard Detail Requirements wetlands are addressed in Table A Item 18. It reads as follows:


“If there has been a field delineation of wetlands conducted by a qualified specialist hired by the client, the surveyor shall locate any delineation markers observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork and show them on the face of the plat or map. If no markers were observed, the surveyor shall so state.”

What’s different? Not much in my opinion but the responsibilities of the surveyor are clarified. “appropriate authorities” was somewhat vague. Now “qualified specialist” is used. Furthermore, it specifies that if a field delineation has not been conducted, then there really isn’t anything for the surveyor to show. Clients will still invariably ask for Table A Item 18, knowing that a field delineation has not been/will not be performed. So what’s a surveyor to do? I recommend not including 18, if a field delineation has not been conducted. However, clients sometimes will not rest unless the list of Optional Table A Items matches their checklist. In that case, a surveyor could include Table A Item 18 in the certification but include a notation similar to the following per the standard:


“No markers indicating a delineation of wetlands have been observed during the completion of this survey”

Before the release of the 2016 Standards, I typically included the following as a standard notation on all surveys, even if [old] Table A item 19 was not requested.


“[No apparent] wetlands are located on the subject property according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory located at

This note is still acceptable and does not state that a wetland delineation has been conducted. It does not contradict the Standards as long as the previous note is also included.

Tags:  ALTA  Fish & Wildlife  wetlands 

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Adverse Possession in Oklahoma

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 6, 2014

One of the most misunderstood aspects of land ownership in Oklahoma (or anywhere) is adverse possession. It is a very complicated legal issue and should always involve a qualified real estate attorney. Many people believe that possession is 9/10ths of the law. In real estate, this is not true.


Before adverse possession can ripen into fee ownership, several things must happen. Only one of which is occupying the land in question for 15 years. This article is not comprehensive and should not be taken as legal advice but only as a starting point if you think you have a claim or if an adverse claim is being made against your land.


Five elements muse be met before an adverse possession claim can be made. Even then, the claim must go through the court system to make the claim into a fee ownership (deed). It does not just happen automatically, even if the criteria below are met.


The five elements are listed below with a brief (non-lawyer) explanation:


Actual: This means you must have held yourself out as the owner of the property in question. You acted as the owner, told people you are the owner, maintained the property, etc.


Open and Notorious: This means your actions were public and able to be seen or observed by anyone (i.e not secretive)


Exclusive: This just means that you are the only one occupying the land. You can’t occupy the land in question with the true owner.


Hostile: This element is not as easy to prove but it basically means that you are holding the lands regardless of the true boundary or what the true owner believes. The possession cannot be permitted by the true owner or the “hostile” element cannot be met.


Continuous / Unitterupted: This simply means the elements above must have been met continuously through the statutory period which is 15 years in Oklahoma. Other states vary on this length of time.


Fence lines are one of the most common ways to claim ownership of parcel or strip of land but are, by no means the only way. Something as innocuous as lawn maintenance, curbs, or even hedge rows can also indicate to others that you are claiming some portion of a parcel of land.


One of the best ways to avoid possible future adverse claims against your land is to have it surveyed and fenced for all to see what lands you are claiming. This won't guarantee that a claim can't be made against your lands but it is a really good start. Don't assume that you know where you property line is, regardless of what your grandpa or the person you bought it from told you.


If you think you may have an adverse claim to lands or if your neighbor is claiming adverse possession against your lands, there are two things you need to do right away. Find a qualified real estate attorney and have your lands surveyed by a Licensed Land Surveyor.

Tags:  actual  adverse possession  continuous  exclusive  fences  hostile  notorious  open  ownership 

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How do I find my property corners with my GPS?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I hear this question a lot from landowners who have GPS technology at their disposal. Either a handheld “navigational” GPS or even an iPhone app that shows GPS coordinates.

The question is fair enough but the answer is most usually, PLEASE DON’T!

A surveyor can, and does, use GPS equipment to record a coordinate value for points that he/she has surveyed. When a surveyor later retraces the location of that property corner, all evidence recovered must be evaluated in order to recover or replace the corner.

That evidence comes in many forms: physical monuments, artificial monuments, distances or bearings. Coordinates are another form of evidence that can be considered by the retracing surveyor. However, the coordinate value is lower in importance than any other form of evidence with the exception of area (acreage).

To consider GPS coordinates as the only source to replace or locate a property corner would be a serious error and one that would most likely result in the incorrect location of the property corner.

For a person, not licensed to practice Land Surveying, to use [only] GPS coordinates to locate a property corner would not only be egregious, but also a violation of state law. To do so would place you in a position of practicing Land Surveying without a license and also place considerable liability on yourself if that erroneous corner was relied upon by others, such as an adjoining landowner.

Just because I have an automotive diagnostic scanner in my garage, does not make me a mechanic. My advice is to use your GPS equipment for what it is intended, navigation and call a Licensed Land Surveyor for locating your property corners. 

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Why do surveyors never agree?

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 31, 2013

I get asked this question more than any other when someone finds out that I am a surveyor. Well there isn’t an easy answer but I thought I would try to explain it the best I can.


Surveying is like investigating a crime scene, the more evidence you find the more likely you will arrive at the correct solution. If you don’t gather ANY evidence you are basically guessing the outcome. If you gather evidence for weeks before making your decision you will likely come up with a different solution than someone who investigated for only a few days.


I know, take it easy there CSI-okie! However, the similarities are actually quite common. Evidence that surveyors gather might be historical. Some of it might be mathematical. Some of it might even be biological. But all of it combined, will lead to a more certain solution.


Let’s say that a CSI investigating a crime didn’t have access to a certain eyewitness than another CSI did have access to. The first solution is not going to be as certain because a key piece of evidence was missing. If a key piece of evidence is not available to one surveyor that is available to another, you can almost guarantee a different solution from each of them.


The problem with some of the physical evidence that surveyors have to examine is that it is often quite old and has deteriorated to a point that it cannot be relied upon. Another problem with our evidence is that not all of it is recorded in the public records thus making locating it difficult at best.


Quite often I hear someone say "I am sure my property has been surveyed before”. The problem in Oklahoma is that there is not a requirement to record surveys so even if it had really been surveyed, the only evidence of such a survey is in the prior surveyors office. If one surveyor happens to have such a prior survey available that another surveyor doesn’t they could very likely arrive at two different solutions.


What can you do if you are having your land surveyed and want to avoid such issues? First, always have an open conversation between you, the neighbor and the Land Surveyors prior to the work (investigation) beginning. The neighbor might have some valuable evidence that you or your Land Surveyors might not have access to, such as an old survey or a picture of their grandpa standing next to a big survey marker. This kind of evidence is known as parole evidence and is often overlooked by surveyors but is often as important as finding monuments in the ground.


So, if you hear someone say "Why can’t surveyors ever agree” just remember surveying is not an EXACT science. Although the rules are rigid, the interpretation of the data (evidence) is subjective and two surveyors may interpret that data in two different ways. Much like two attorneys can, and do, interpret a law in two different ways.

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My Fence = My property Line

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 31, 2013

This is one of the most common misconceptions among landowners today. In an earlier blog I wrote about evidence that surveyors use to retrace a boundary location. Fences certainly can be part of that evidence. That does not mean, however, that a landowner should assume that a fence is built on the property line.



Fences have been built for many reasons, containing livestock or pets, providing a visual barrier, even just plain ol’ decoration. Sometimes a fence may be built to mark a boundary line but my experience says this is more often the exception than the rule. Many properties have utility easements or building setback lines along their perimeter and fences are often built along those lines instead of the actual property line.


If you didn’t personally build the fence in question, it would be better to assume that it is NOT on the property line. At least that way you won’t get yourself into trouble later for building your fence on the adjoiner’s property.


Many landowners build a replacement fence and don’t remove the existing fence first in order to prevent livestock or pets from escaping. After the new fence is constructed, the old fence is removed, thus causing the new fence to be slightly inside the property line.


More times than not a fence is built in a location out of convenience. Hard ground, topography, trees or other obstacles may prevent a fence from being installed directly over the property line.


As you can see there are many situations where a fence can be misleading and cause a landowner to believe it represents the location of the property boundary.


I can’t count the number of times that someone has said to me "doesn’t the fence become the property line if it has been there for 20 years?” The short answer to that question is no. The principle of adverse possession is very complex and involves attorneys, judges and lots of money. It is not as simple as the fence being located in the same place for a certain number of years. I will try to write a future article on adverse possession.


The only true way to be sure of your property line’s location is to have it surveyed by a Licensed Land Surveyor.

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