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Bureau of Land Management
Visual Resources

National Park Service Visual Resource Management

The National Park Service (NPS) Organic Act states that the purpose of establishing the NPS is to "...conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." The NPS mission is primarily one of conservation of important natural, historic and cultural resources, unlike the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, which support and permit multiple uses of the lands they manage. NPS generally does not issue permits for energy development, agriculture, and similar uses of lands and waters the agency manages, though there are exceptions. These activities may cause significant visual impacts, but because NPS rarely allows them, NPS has historically had less need of formal programs for management of scenic resources, and currently does not have a formal policy for management of visual resources.

The NPS Visual Resource Program

However, recent years have seen the rapid development of energy facilities, especially utility-scale renewable energy projects, electric transmission lines and oil and gas facilities, adjacent to or crossing parks, national trails, wild and scenic rivers and other NPS-administered areas. The growth of communities and other types of development are likewise pushing ever closer to NPS-administered lands and waters. These developments are changing sometimes previously undisturbed views from park areas. In response to these developments, the Air Resources Division of the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate is developing the NPS Visual Resource Program to help address visual resource issues throughout NPS. The VRP is a comprehensive inventory, planning and park assistance program covering visual resource management. The NPS Visual Resource Inventory (VRI) component of the VRP is a systematic process for description of the visual elements, scenic quality, and importance to NPS visitor experience and interpretive goals for important views inside and outside National Park System units.