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Bureau of Land Management
Visual Resources

Visual Impact Assessment Methodologies for Non-Federal Agencies

Several states have environmental analysis requirements similar to the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal law that requires the preparation of environmental impact statements for actions involving federal agencies with potentially significant environmental impacts. For example, the California Environmental Quality Act, Washington's State Environmental Policy Act, and Maine's Wind Energy Act include visual resources as a topic for analysis. These laws require disclosure of the impacts on the visual landscape and may require mitigation to "less than significant" impact standards. However, there generally are not state-level visual management objectives to guide siting, design, and development of projects on state-owned lands, or to determine a project's or an activity's compliance with visual resource management objectives. In some states (e.g. Oregon), by requiring projects to meet a standard, the State extends management of scenic resources across all jurisdictions, including private lands (and, in some cases, provides additional protection to federally managed resources beyond what is provided by the agency standard).

State-level environmental reviews do have a mechanism for public comment on perceived visual intrusions.

Local Requirements for Visual Impact Assessments

Local requirements for assessment of visual impacts are rare at this time. Counties and municipalities may have general guidance for community aesthetics or visual character, and these will typically take the form of goals and objectives in their respective comprehensive plans. Local ordinances may provide some restrictions to development for aesthetic purposes; however, these are generally focused on specific types of development, e.g., wind energy facilities, and do not specify methods for determination of expected impacts.