Visual Resource Policies and Programs Overview
What Are Visual Resource Programs?
Visual resource programs are methodical approaches and analytical tools to manage landscape scenic resources. Visual resource programs often include procedures for inventorying and managing visual resources, and assessing the visual impacts of projects and land management actions, typically energy, transportation, or other types of development that may affect landscape scenic quality. They also may include required or recommended practices for visual impact mitigation to avoid or reduce visual impacts of projects and activities.
U.S. Federal Agency Visual Resource Policies and Programs
Several U.S. federal agencies with land management responsibilities have comprehensive visual resource programs that include visual resource inventory and management processes, as well as visual impact assessment (VIA) procedures, and visual impact mitigation components. These systems vary in their scope, purposes, and approaches. Programs for agencies with land management responsibilities tend to emphasize inventory and management processes, as well as impact assessment procedures. Programs for agencies that do not manage large tracts of land or water may be limited to, or may emphasize, VIA and visual impact mitigation procedures.
U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages large areas of public land primarily in the Western United States, and has developed the Visual Resource Management (VRM) system for visual resource inventory, management, and impact assessment.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
The United States Forest Service (USFS) manages national forests and grasslands throughout the United States, and has developed the Scenery Management System (SMS) for visual resource inventory, management, and impact assessment.
U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) administers a variety of NPS units and is developing a comprehensive NPS Visual Resource Program (VRP). The NPS VRP includes a Visual Resource Inventory process that identifies and evaluates scenic views to inform NPS management and collaborative efforts.
Other Federal Agency Policies and Programs
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed a VIA procedure for highway projects.
U.S. Department of Defense U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) authorizes waterway projects, and has a system for inventorying existing visual quality and evaluating the visual impacts of proposed projects.
U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resource Conservation Service
The National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) does not currently have an agency-wide visual resource policy or program, but has developed guidance for incorporating visual resource concerns into agency activities.
U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) regulates utility-scale energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, but currently does not have an agency-wide visual resource policy or program.
Follow the link below to learn more about other federal agency visual resource programs and policies, including the FHWA, USACE, NRCS, and BOEM:
Non-Federal Agency Policies and Programs
A number of states have policies or regulations regarding project siting that include visual resources, and some non-federal agencies have required or recommended processes for conducting visual resource-related projects, such as scenic resources inventories and especially VIAs. For example, the state of California has identified procedures to be used for assessment of visual impacts of major projects, and the state of Maine has identified detailed procedures to be used to evaluate the visual impacts of wind energy projects. Detailed information about non-federal agency visual resource programs and policies is not provided on this website, but examples of non-federal visual resources programs and procedures are discussed in each main topic area.