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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.

The proportionate size relationship between an object and the surroundings in which the object is placed. Also refers to the geographic extent and context of a particular analysis (e.g., land use planning versus project analysis scales). In the NPS VRI scale is one of three components used to measure Visual Harmony. (BLM, NPS, USFS)
Scale Relatonships
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, a measure of the degree to which the sizes of landscape elements, relative to each other and to the view as a whole, make the view seem well-proportioned and balanced.. Scale Relationships is one of three components used to evaluate the Visual Harmony factor. (NPS)
General appearance of a place or a landscape, or features of a landscape. (USFS, BLM)
Scenery management
The art and science of arranging, planning, and designing landscape attributes relative to the appearance of places and expanses in outdoor settings. (USFS)
Scenery Management System (SMS)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service system for managing scenery and determining the relative value and importance of scenery in a national forest. (USFS)
Of or relating to landscape scenery; pertaining to natural or natural appearing scenery; constituting or affording pleasant views of natural landscape attributes or positive cultural elements. (USFS)
Scenic area
An area with landscape character that exhibits a high degree of natural variety and harmony among the basic elements, which results in a pleasant landscape to view. (BLM)
Scenic attractiveness
The scenic importance of a landscape based on human perceptions of the intrinsic beauty of landform, rockform, waterform, and vegetation pattern. Reflects varying visual perception attributes of variety, unity, vividness, intactness, coherence, mystery, uniqueness, harmony, balance, and pattern. (USFS)
Scenic class
A system of classification describing the importance or value of a particular landscape or portions of that landscape. (USFS)
Scenic Integrity
The degree of “intactness” of a landscape which is related to the existing amount of visual disturbance present. Landscapes with higher scenic integrity are generally regarded as more sensitive to visual disturbances. (NPS, BLM, USFS)
Scenic Inventory Value (SIV)
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, the inventoried value of the view. The SIV is comprised of two parts, the Scenic Quality Rating and the View Importance Rating. (NPS)
Scenic quality
A measure of the intrinsic beauty of landform, waterform, or vegetation in the landscape, as well as any visible human additions or alterations to the landscape. (NPS, USFS, BLM, FHWA)
Scenic Quality Evaluation
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, the assessment of the relative scenic quality of the view, determined by evaluating the three scenic quality factors: Landscape Character Integrity, Vividness, and Visual Harmony. (NPS)
Scenic quality evaluation key factors
The seven factors used to evaluate the scenic quality of a landscape (landform, vegetation, water, color, adjacent scenery, scarcity, and cultural modifications). (BLM)
Scenic quality factors
The three factors used to evaluate the scenic quality of the landscape. see Landscape Character Integrity, Vividness, and Visual Harmony. (NPS)
Scenic quality rating
The relative scenic quality assigned to a landscape by applying the scenic quality evaluation key factors—scenic quality "A" being the highest rating, "B" a moderate rating, and "C" the lowest rating. (BLM)
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, the total score derived from the Scenic Quality Evaluation. The rating constitutes one half of the view's Scenic Inventory Value. (NPS)
Scenic quality rating unit
In the BLM Visual Resource Inventory, a portion of a landscape that displays primarily homogenous visual characteristics of the basic landscape features (landforms and water bodies, vegetation, and structures). (BLM)
Scenic resource
Attributes, characteristics, and features of landscapes that provide varying responses from, and varying degrees of benefits to humans. (USFS)
Scenic resource area
A physical area composed of land, water, biotic and/or cultural elements which have inherent scenic qualities and/or aesthetic value. (NPS)
Scenic value
The importance of a landscape based on human perception of the intrinsic beauty of landform, waterform, and vegetation in the landscape, as well as any visible human additions or alterations to the landscape. (NPS, BLM)
A visual barrier consisting of earth, vegetation, structures, or other materials that blocks a particular view, or the actual blocking of a view through the use of a visual barrier. (NPS)
The expanse of visible ocean, sea, or lake scenery. (NPS)
Seen Area
The portion of the landscape that is visible from roads, trails, rivers, campgrounds, communities, or other key observation points. (BLM, USFS)
Seldom seen distance zone
Portions of the landscape that are generally not visible from key observation points or portions that are visible but from more than 15 miles away. (BLM)
Areas of the landscape that are infrequently viewed by the public. (USFS)
Sensitive viewpoint
A location that is valued or considered important because of the views of the landscape that it affords. (NPS)
Sensitivity levels
Measures of public concern for the maintenance of scenic quality (e.g., high, medium, and low). (BLM)
Contour, spatial form, or configuration of a figure. Shape is similar to form, but shape is usually considered to be two-dimensional. (USFS)
A lighting condition in which the side of an object facing the viewer is partly illuminated and partly shaded because sunlight is falling more or less perpendicular to the line of sight between the viewer and the object. (NPS)
A realistic visual portrayal that demonstrates the perceivable changes in landscape features caused by a proposed activity. This is done through the use of photography, artwork, computer graphics, and other such techniques. (BLM, FHWA, NPS)
Siting of a structure on or near a ridgeline so that it is silhouetted against the sky as seen from a specified viewpoint. (NPS)
Solar altitude (Solar elevation)
The angular height of the sun above or below the horizon, usually measured in degrees. Above the horizon, solar altitude is positive, below the horizon, solar altitude is negative. Also referred to as “solar elevation.” (NPS)
Spatial Relationship
In the NPS Visual Resource Inevntory, the degree to which the spatial arrangement of landscape elements makes the view seem structured, ordered, and balanced. Spatial Relationship is one of three components used to evaluate the Visual Harmony factor. (NPS)
Special classified area
Those areas-such as wilderness, historical, biological, scenic, or geological sites-that are of such significance that specific management direction is given as part of policy or legislation. (USFS)
Special places
Those specific locations and expanses in outdoor settings that have attractions and features that are identified as unique, different, distinctive, and extraordinary to people. Special places may range from small areas, such as a particular fallen log, to large areas, such as a landscape unit. (USFS)
Specially Designated Areas (SDA)
Parcels of land appointed special status for recreation or their national and/or regionally significant scenic, historic, cultural or scientific features or landmarks. (NPS)
Specular reflection
Also known as direct reflection, regular reflection, or mirror reflection. The reflection of electromagnetic rays without scattering or diffusion. In specular reflection, the angle at which the wave is incident on the reflecting surface is equal to the angle at which it is reflected from that surface. See also Glint; Glare. (NPS)
Split estate
Lands where subsurface minerals are owned by the United States, but the surface is privately owned. (BLM)
A person or group who has an interest or concern in the proposed project. (NPS)
Built objects, such as buildings, towers, oil wells, and highways that are visible in the viewed landscape (NPS)
Landscape features that are inferior to, or placed below, another in size, importance, brightness, and so on. Features that are secondary in visual impact or importance. (USFS)
Suburban (landscape character type)
In the NPS Visual Resource Inventory, landscapes that consist primarily of residential and mixed-use commercial development within commuting distance of a city. The suburbs typically contain a mix single family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and apartments and are sometimes divided into subdivisions. (NPS)
Sun angle
The angle of the sun (solar altitude) above the horizon of the earth and its bearing (solar azimuth). (NPS)
Surface Elevation Model
A three-dimensional representation of the surface terrain of an area that takes into account trees, buildings, or other vertical structures in determining elevation. (BLM, NPS)