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Bureau of Land Management
Visual Resources

Visual Resources Glossary

Select a letter from the list below to view glossary terms and acronyms/abbreviations. The agency abbreviation following the definition indicates the definition source.

Land cover
One of four landscape elements used to describe the view. Land cover is the physical material visible on the earth’s surface, including vegetation, lakes, bare areas, etc., including human-made development. (NPS)
Land use
A characterization of land in terms of its potential utility for various activities, or the activities carried out on a given piece of land. (NPS)
Any recognizable physical form of the earth’s surface having a characteristic shape. Landforms include major forms such as plains, plateaus, and mountains, and minor forms such as hills, valleys, slopes, and moraines. Taken together, the landforms make up the surface configuration of the earth. (NPS, BLM, USFS)
The expanse of visible scenery, including landforms, waterforms, vegetation, and man-made elements such as roads and structures. Also the traits, patterns, and structure of a specific geographic area, including its physical environment, its biological composition, and its anthropogenic or social patterns. (NPS, USFS)
Landscape character
An overall visual and cultural impression of the landscape that embodies distinct landscape attributes that exist throughout an area. It is a product of both the natural and human influences on the landscape. (NPS, USFS, BLM)
Landscape Character Elements
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, the degree to which the full range of desirable landscape character elements, e.g., natural features, land use types, structures, are plainly visible in the view. Landscape Character Elements is one of three components used to evaluate the Landscape Character Integrity factor. (NPS)
Landscape character goal
A management prescription designed to maintain or modify the existing landscape character to a desired future state. See desired landscape character. (USFS)
Landscape Character Integrity
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, a measure of how well the landscape character identified in the view description process is expressed in the viewed landscape. Landscape Character Integrity is one of three factors in the Scenic Quality Evaluation. It is comprised of three components: Landscape Character Elements, Quality and Condition of Elements, and Inconsistent Elements. (NPS)
Landscape character type
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, the distinct and recognizable pattern of elements that occur consistently across the landscape. Typical landscape character types include Natural/Natural Appearing, Pastoral, Agriculture, Rural, Suburban, Urban, and Industrial. (NPS)
Landscape Description
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, a systematic, objective, and comprehensive process for describing the visible elements of a viewed landscape. (NPS)
Landscape elements
Visible objects and activities in the landscape that help to determine a landscape character type. The combination of landscape elements helps to determine a landscape's scenic quality. Landscape element types include landform, land cover, land use, and structures. (NPS)
Landscape features
The land and water forms, vegetation, and structures that compose the characteristic landscape. (BLM)
Landscape fragility
See visual absorption capability. (USFS)
Landscape setting
The context and environment in which a landscape is set; a landscape backdrop. (USFS)
Landscape Unit
Defined areas within the Area of Visual Effect that have similar visual features and homogeneous visual character and frequently, a single viewshed. An “outdoor room.” Typically the spatial unit used for assessing visual impacts. (FHWA)
Landscape Unit
A small area of land that, at a micro-scale, has similar existing landscape character attributes- landform, rockform, waterform, and vegetative communities patterns. A geographic area that is useful for inventorying and analyzing scenery. (USFS)
Landscape visibility
Accessibility of the landscape to viewers, referring to one's ability to see and perceive landscapes. (USFS)
Illumination of an object by a light source coming from a particular angle. (BLM)
The path, real or imagined, that the eye follows when perceiving abrupt differences in form, color, or texture. (BLM, FHWA, NPS, USFS)
The brightness of a light source of a certain wavelength as it appears to the eye. (NPS)