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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

2016 Land Title Survey Standards

by John Casucci 1. October 2015 07:50

What you need to know about the new ALTA Survey standards.

The revised ALTA Survey specifications are scheduled to take effect February 2016.  The below commentary itemizes the significant changes to survey specifications, responsibilities and requirements.

1. The Survey will be known as an ALTA/NSPS LAND TITLE SURVEY. The title has been revised to reflect the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), which is the legal successor organization to the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). All references to ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys must be changed to ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.

Revisions affecting Table A

2. Complete revision to Item 11 – depicting evidence of the location of utilities.

a. Table A, Item 11A – Observed evidence – has been eliminated and is now written into the specifications as Item 5E(ii)-5E(v). All ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys are required to depict surface indications of underground utilities, including ditches, manholes, vents, valves, pedestals, utility poles, etc. 

b. Table A, Item 11 has been revised to: utilities existing on or serving the surveyed property as determined by:

• Observed evidence
• Evidence from plans...
• Markings from utility locate

c. Additional narrative has been added, acknowledging that surveyors must rely on third party locating services (Diggers Hotline), which routinely ignores, or provides inadequate, utility marking. In these cases, the surveyor will note as such on the survey and the client is advised that excavation or a private utility locating request may be necessary.

3. Table A, Item 6 – Zoning classifications and setback requirements have been revised and rewritten to require a zoning letter or report be provided to the surveyor as a condition of depicting the information on the survey.

4. Table A, Item 8 – has been revised to include the depiction of substantial features and uses, including substantial areas of refuse.

5. Table A, Item 18 – Observed evidence of site use as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill has been eliminated.

6. Table A, Item 18 has been rewritten to identify the location of wetland delineation flags, if a delineation has been conducted. If a delineation has not been conducted, a note stating that no flags were observed shall be noted on the survey.

7. Table A, Item 19 has been changed to depict any plottable offsite easement or servitudes disclosed in record documents.

8. The requirement of setting monuments at the corners of the offsite easements or servitudes has been eliminated.

Revisions referenced in the Specifications

9. Per Section 5 (B)(ii) of the specifications: for abutting public or private roads, the width and location of each edge of the traveled way, including divided streets, must be depicted unless the recorded documents disclose there is no access to the road(s).

10. Per Section 5 (C)(ii) of the specifications: the location of trees, bushes, shrubs or other natural vegetation does not need to be located unless they are deemed by the surveyor to be evidence of possession.

11. Per Section 5 (G)(i) of the specifications: the location of springs, ponds, lakes, streams, ditches, swamps, etc. running through or outside, but within 5 feet of the boundary of the surveyed property, must be depicted. 

12. Per Section 6 (B)(x): the survey must note if there are any areas on the boundaries of the surveyed property where physical access within five feet was restricted.

The 2016 specifications continue the revisions of 2011, which state the survey shall bear only the specified certification and preparing a new legal description is to be avoided unless deemed appropriate by the surveyor and insurer.

Please note that the above is a partial list, and may not reflect the final version scheduled to become effective February 2016. Please contact John Casucci at with any questions or for an update on the status of the revised ALTA Survey specifications.


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Top 8 Amazing Sights of Nature

by Tina Myers 29. June 2015 14:41

As part of our June 30x30 Nature Challenge Month, wetland ecologist and amateur photographer Tina Myers would like to encourage all of you to step away from your electronic devices this summer, get in touch with your natural heritage, and discover the amazing spectacles found in nature in your own backyard. You never know what you may come across! For example, take a look at these photos and learn something you may not have already known…

Photo 1:  There are 21 species of snakes in Wisconsin, four of which are endangered. This particular snake, the Butler’s garter snake, was listed as State Threatened for many years, but was removed from the list on January 1, 2014, and is now listed as Special Concern. 


Photo 2:  There are over 160 species of dragonflies and damselflies that can be found in Wisconsin. This particular species, found during a field visit in Franklin, Wis., is a female green darner. Like so many species, dragonflies depend on aquatic ecosystems to fulfill their lifecycles.  

Photo 3:  This beauty is known as the Dwarf Lake Iris and is a State–Threatened and Federally Threatened plant found near Lake Michigan. This small plant grows nowhere else in the world but in the Great Lakes Region. I was lucky enough to see it in bloom at a nature preserve near Bailey’s Harbor, Wis., just a couple of weeks ago.       

Photo 4:  You often see beautiful tropical orchids being sold at grocery stores and garden centers these days. But did you know there are approximately 50 different species of orchids in Wisconsin that are just as beautiful? Many are quite rare and are listed as Threatened or Endangered. This particular species, the large yellow lady’s slipper, is locally abundant in Door County where I took this photo. There are six species of lady slipper orchids alone in Wisconsin. 

Photo 5:  Native prairie ecosystems once covered a large portion of our landscape throughout the Midwest, but due to urban development and agriculture, these ecosystems have become quite rare. In fact, the native tallgrass prairie is thought to be the most endangered ecosystem in North America. This photo shows a rare low prairie found not more than an hour away from our Brookfield office in the Southern Kettle Moraine.

Photos 6 and 7:  Winter is no excuse for not getting out to enjoy the wonders that nature has to offer. These photos were taken up at the Lake Superior Bayfield Peninsula Ice Caves. These ice caves are not open every year to the public and sometimes the ice is only safe enough to walk on for a week or two, so seeing these up close is quite rare. People came out in droves to see them the last two winters. But even if you can’t get there in winter, that’s OK; just take a trip in summer and see the caves up close in person via kayak!

Photo 8:  Clean water is important to all of us. Wisconsin boasts some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers in the Midwest, like this one up near Crivitz. The USEPA recently came out with a new “Clean Water Rule,” which more precisely defines waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. For more information about this rule, click here.

And a bonus Photo 9:  Did you know that the month of June is designated as Leave No Child Inside Month? More than ever, children are spending more time using electronic devices like TVs, cell phones and computers that are steering further away from their natural heritage. This summer, be sure to spend some quality time with your children in the great outdoors and teach them the importance of nature.          


What are your favorite nature sightings? Let us know in the comments.

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