NDSPLS CFedS Workshops on February 6, 2020

For those CFedS who attended the NDSPLS CFedS Workshops on February 6, 2020 you can download the workshop handouts by selecting the links below.

Please note that the files are large.

You will receive a total of 2 CFedS Continuing Education Credits upon successfully passing the quiz.

Learn More »

Jacobsen-Downer (The Rest of the Story) Fresno, CA, Jan 24, 2020

For those CFedS who attended the Jacobsen-Downer (The Rest of the Story) – 59th Annual Fresno State Geo-Eng Conference, Fresno, CA, Jan 24, 2020, you can download the workshop handout by selecting the link below.

Please note that the file is large.

You will receive a total of 1 CFedS Continuing Education Credits upon successfully passing the quiz.

Learn More »

Congratulations to the October 2019 CFedS


  • Thomas Hannah
  • Joseph Kraft
  • Michael Riley
  • Aaron Skattum
  • Keith Whisenhunt
  • Adam Weirich

Learn More »

News Archive

Washington Office Chief Cadastral Surveyor, Don Buhler Speak at CFedS Awards Banquet

Don Buhler
Don Buhler

On May 4, 2007, Washington Office Chief Cadastral Surveyor, Donald Buhler addresses the original graduating CFedS class.

Thank you Mr. Tuttle, and good evening everyone, honored guests, and especially our first graduating class of Certified Federal Surveyors or CFedS. It is an honor to be here with you tonight.

I am a land surveyor, as most of you are. The emphasis is on land. Land is earth. Land is sacred, it is life. Land is the basis for all cultures and all economies. For Indian people, the land is a fundamental component of their culture. The term “Mother Earth” may be attributed to Indians. However, the concept of “owning the earth” was new to most of the Indian tribes as it was introduced by Europeans over 400 years ago. As the Indian Reservations were established, this concept of owning the earth, mother earth, was not completely understood or grasped. That is not the case today.

The non profit group, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, is just one example of the sophistication and expertise in the concept of land ownership. Their goal “to reestablish Indian ownership and control of all land within the original boundaries of every reservation” relays the message that all aspects of land ownership are important to Indians. The basic division of property and in what amounts should go to specific people is one of the roles of land surveying.

222 years ago, almost to the day (May 20, 1785), the Continental Congress signed a law which created an authority for and a system of surveying the vast public lands west of the original colonies. The law was hotly debated by Congress but the basic vision of a simple grid was adopted. A rectangular grid, surveyed and monumented BEFORE anyone took title was envisioned and enacted by the leaders of our new nation.

I wonder if they ever imagined it would cover so many millions of acres. It is the underlying foundation of 70% of our country’s land tenure system? Just flying in a plane over this great country one can see the dramatic change in land ownership patterns as you cross the Appalachians and enter what came to be called the “public domain”.

With the exception of some foreign land grants, the Public Land Survey System extended to almost all of the public domain, including most Indian Reservations. And as time went on, the system faced new challenges, new laws, and special issues never before anticipated. As it evolved, it became a very complex system, with challenging corner evidence and records research requirements.

But I wonder if all of you realize that 99% of the PLSS was surveyed by private contractors, up until the early 1900’s? There was a long-standing relationship between the General Land Office and the private sector, long before any state even considered licensing or regulating land surveyors! This relationship worked very well until the late 1800’s; it was then that a small (but significant enough) number of the contractors began to shortcut and even cheat the government. This serious breach of trust and ethics caused the GLO to switch to what they called the “direct system”. This meant they ended contracting and did all the subsequent work by federal employees. It was an unfortunate division, which ultimately hurt both sides of the table. GLO and BLM became increasingly isolated from the private sector, and the private sector lost touch with all the subsequent laws, policy changes, and practices adopted by the federal government.

In the 1970’s BLM started to contract again, this time in Alaska. The volume of work simply exceeded what BLM could accomplish. This practice was successful, and it continues to this day. In the past decade, more BLM’s state offices have also re-entered the contracting world, with mostly very successful results.

However, in the past 5 years, especially since the approval of the Secretary’s “Fiduciary Trust Model”, a huge need for properly done surveys has been highlighted for Indian Country. BLM can not meet the needs of the BIA and the Tribes alone, and an alternate method was explored. While contracting is an option, the challenge lies in the fact that upwards of 75% of the surveys in Indian Country are done by a contract between a tribe or an individual with a professional surveyor. And hopefully the surveyor is a professional licensed surveyor.

The idea of the CFedS was born to fill this void; to help train surveyors in the complexities of the PLSS, and especially as it relates to Indian Country. A group of federal employees from BIA, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and BLM and along with Tribal members developed the CFedS concept. John Bennett, Helen Latall, Douglas Haywood and many others were a part of that group who formulated the initial idea. A development plan was designed by Dennis Mouland and then we hired Ron Scherler to bring that plan to fruition. And here you are the first class of CFedS!

Although different in many aspects from the old GLO contract days, what we really have here is a rejoining of efforts, skills, and expertise of the federal government and the private sector. You CFedS had the resources; now we have made sure you have started down an educational path that provides you with the knowledge particular to surveying the PLSS in Indian Country and the public domain.

The initial CFedS training has been honed, and we are pleased with it. We thank this initial group. As a CFedS, you have made a commitment to continuing education, which is critical to helping you to do even better in your surveying efforts. I pledge to you, this training will be equal to or better than what you have already been through. We are excited to develop it and make it available to the CFedS and BLM personnel as well.

Training has always been a major part of cadastral survey’s mission. And we are not just pleased, but honored and excited to share so many things with our partners in the private sector. The commitment you folks are showing continues to impress me. I never imagined that over two thirds of the CFedS would travel to Phoenix at their own expense to attend this banquet. You folks are an incredible talent added to our mission.

In conclusion, the CFedS Program is a new step in the history of the GLO/BLM legacy. We are more than happy to bring this to you, and I want to be the first to say “welcome to the cadastral survey family”.

Before I leave the stage, it is my honor to present the first two CFedS certificates. A little explanation is important; how did we pick the first numbers, 1001 and 1002? Should we go alphabetically? Should we pick someone randomly?

It was decided the first CFedS Certificate would go to the person scoring highest on the three part examination. That person deserves the first certificate because of his hard work and commitment to the Program. I would like to present the very first certificate to Mr. Tyler Parsons. Tyler, come on up here!

Finally, the second certificate goes to the only person who got a score of 100 on any one of the three parts of the examination. Mastery of a subject is something one should be very proud of, and should be honored by your peers. Earning a score of 100 on Part 1 of the exam, and receiving certificate number 1002, I present to you Brianna Buettner, please join us here on stage.

The remaining numbers were assigned randomly. Gregg, would you come back on the stage and help me with these certificates.

Added: Friday, May 11, 2007

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