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I S3.2:V 82

Bur..u of land Management

Vlsual Resource Management


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Deoartment of the lntenot

Bureau ol land Management
0.vlsoon ol RecfNtloo end Cultural ~urces

18111 ano C Strffls. N.W

Was!llngton, o .e. 2020



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aoo Cu/rural Resourr:es. Washington.

CC1f1"11Ctor Patru 8<awNT1111n Gr'1ph1cs; Paince Bravennan, Projoct

Manager 11nd Re'l'iewer. S10011en SlleppatO, Smulelons Consu llant
ano lllustrator; Joslyn Green. Editor
Sub-Contrldor Hanlon Onlgn Group: Gary Hanlon. Designe!'; Gary
Hanlon and L.ori HIQllt. l llustratOfs.


Gage Davis Assoclares. lnc.. Jett Wanslon. Technlcal

Pholiognptw 6-0lclc Oie1rich. 16. 17-Dick DutTanco 11.


Socle1y; ~$19"9



' Na1oon;11 G"9raphic Socrely:

2&Bruce Dille. < NatlonaJ Geogra$)hc Society; 29-Emory Krislof,

fli. Natiooal Geograpl'llc SOClety; 34,38-Latry Gteen. The Desogn Center.

FOf Sale by the SupeJlntendent ol Oo<:uments.

u.s. GcM!f'rWnetlr Prlnuno Olflce. WastilAQron. o.e . 2CM02

Stock No. 024-01HI011fMI

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Manaaement Classes
Contrast Ratlng


Land Use Plannlng

VRM and Enarg~ Devel~ment

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The quality of the visual environment has become
increasingly importan! to the American publlc. The
Bureau of Land Management is committed to
managing visual resources on an equal bass wlth ali
other resources as it continuas to put public land to
productive use.
Visual Resource Management (VRM) has dual
program purposes: to manage the quality of the
visual envlronment, and to reduce the vi sual lmpact
of development activities, while maintainlng
effectiveness in all Bureau resource programs_VRM
also identfies scenic areas that warrant protection
through special management attenlion. lt is a specfic
process that can be mapped and lncorporated lnto
design planning for projects ranging from sitlng
transmission lines to harvesting timber.
This publicatlon fs an lntroeluctlon to the VRM
program. lts intended use is to tamiliarize decislon
makers. land use planners, and designers both inside
and outside ol the Bureau wth VRM and its benefits.

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New Dlrectlons
Managing the visual aspects of changes to lhe
natural landscape is particularly importan! for the
Bureau of Land Managernent because rnost activities
taking place on Bureau lands lnvolve sorne degree of
alteration. The Bureau's responslbllitles for visual
management are spelled out In key passages of
recen! Federal legislation.
The Federal Land Pollcy and Management Act ol
1976 (FLPMA), often referred to as the "organlc'' act
for the Bureau, requlres lhat:
publlc lands be rnanaged in a rnanner that wlll
protect the quality of scient fic, scenlc,
hlstorlcal, ecological, environmental, air and
atmospherlc, water resource, and
archaeological vaJues; thal, where approprlate,
will preserve and protect certaln publlc lands
in their natural condition; that will provide food
and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic
anlmals; ano that wlll provide for outdoor
recreatlon and human occupancy and use . ..

The act also states that the Secretary of the Interior

prepare and maintain on a continuing basis an
lnventory of ali publlc lands and thelr resource
and other values (l ncluding but not llmlted to
outdoor recreatlon and scenic values).
The Act, for the first time, places scenic resources on
an equal basis with other resources. lt also makes
lnventorylng and managlng scenic and other
environmental values an expllclt criterlon that must
be applied throughout the land management activlties
of the Bureau.
Thls same law also places new emphass on the role
of land use planning by requirlng that resource
management plans:
glve priority to the deslgnatlon and protectlon
of areas of critica! environmental concern. The

crlteria for identlfying these areas are stated

In l ho deflnllion sectlon: " ... areas .. . where
specal management a'ttentron Is requlred ...
to protect and prevent Irreparable damage to
Importan! historical, cultural, or scenic values,
lish and wldlile resources or other natural
systems or processes or to protect life and
safety from natural hazards."
The Natlonal Envlronmental Pollcy Act of 1969
(NEPA), an earlier and very importan! piece of
environmental legislation, states that it is the Federal
Government's responsbillty to:
assure for ali Amerlcans sale, healthy,
productlve, and aesthe'lically and culturally
pleaslng surroundings.
The Act lurther says that:
all agencies of the Federal Government shall
... ldentify and develop methods and
procedures . . whlch wlll lnsure t hat presently
unquantil ied envlronmental amenltles and

values may be glven approprlate conslderatlon

In decislon-maklng along with economic and
technical considerations.
lt also requires:
a systematlc and lnterdlsclpllnary approach
whlch wlll lnsure the lntegrated use ol the
natural and social sciences and the environ
mental deslgn arts In planning and decislonmaking whlch may have an lmpact on man's
Slgnlflcant aspects ol lhese Federal laws are thelr
lncreased emphasis on envlronmental and scenlc
values and their requirement that the longl erm and
shortlerm consequences of all resource
commllments receive equal consideration.

The Bureau and Land Management

America's publlc lands and their resources have
always been a publ lc trust, but the management role
of lhe Federal Government has changed wlth the
times. After creation of the ''Public Domain," when
lands west of the Allegheny Mountains were
transferred to Federal admlni stratlon early in the
nineteenth century, the government assumed responsibility for the protecllon and use of publlc lands.
Hundreds of laws and grants were subsequently
enacted to transfer ownershlp ot these lands to
homesteaders and other private partles. In the
mid-1930s, however, the emphasls changad. Since
that time, concepts for controlled management of the
remalning publlc land (about 20 percent of the land
area of the United States) have gradually evolved.
Over time, a number of public agencies have been
created to oversee and manage public lands. One of
these, the Bureau of Land Management, was
establi shed in 1946 and given responslbllity primarily
for the larga grazing lands of lhe West. That
stewardshlp has been expanded until now the Bureau
bears responsibility tor the total management of ovar
400 mllllon acres of publlc land In the Far West,

Alaska, and small areas scattered through the rest of

the Natlon. In addlllon, the Bureau manages an
estimated 7 million acres of property on the Outer
Continental Shelf. The Bureau's variad land management programs concern themselves wlth energy
sources such as oll and gas, wlth llmber, wlldllfe, and
grazJng activities, and with the cultural siles and
recreation areas located on publlc land. In 1977,
revenues from these lands and resources totalled
more than S3 billion. These funds were derived from
mineral leasing, land and timber sales, and other
license, lee, and permit programs administered by the
By Congressional mandate, management of the
resources of these varied lands for mu/tiple use and
sustained yield is a major part of the Bureau's
responsibility. Mu/tiple use involves balancing the
development of diversa resources, both renewable
and non-renewable. Sustained y/e/d involves
coordinating the management of these resources so
that environmental quality and the productivity of the

land are not permanently lmpalred. Managing vast

and varied resources under this mandate is a
complex undertaking, particularly since the priorities
set for one management aclivi~y otten conflict with
the prioritles set lor another.

The Bureau and Visual Resources

The Bureau of Land Management 1s concerned with
managng visual resources equally with other
resources and attai nlng acceptable levels of visual
lmpact without unduly reduclng commodlty
production or limitlng overall program effectlveness. lt
is therelore Bureau policy that visual resource
considerations be included in environmental assess
ments, in land use plannng decisions, and in the
implementatlon of resource projects.
Since it was put into effect in 1975. the VRM program
has helped set standards lor transmisslon line
lcx:allon, tlmber harvestlng, recreallon development,
range management. mlning actlvitles, and highway

Because the scenic value and management

objectlves of public lands vary, lt is not practicaJ to
provide a uniform level of visual management for ali
areas adminlstered by the Bureau. The agency has
therefore developed a system for evaluating the visual
resources of a given area and for determinlng what
degree of protection, rehabllltatlon, or enhancement
is desirable and possible. This Bureauwide system
provides an interdisciplinary approach to managing
visual resources. The lntegratlon of VRM into the
Bureau's procedures for plannlng and envlronmental
analysis ensures maximum coordination between a
proposed land use and the existing visual conditions.




Managament Classes


Proposed Actlvttles

Contrast Ratlng


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The VRM system Is an analytical prooess that
identifies, sets, and meets objectives for malntalnlng
scenlc values and vlsual quallty.
The system is based on research lhat has produced
ways of assessing aesthetic quallties of the
landscape In objeclive terms. What had been
oonsidered extremely subjective (aesthetic judgment,
particularly concernlng the landscape) was found to
have ldentlflable, consisten! qualltles that can be
described and measured. Whatever the terraln (and
whoever the observar), perception of visual quality in
a landscape seems to be based on several common
Landscape character is primari ly determlned by
the four basic visual elements of torm, //ne, color,
texture. Although all four elements are present in
every landscape, they exen varylng degrees of
The stronger the influence exerted by these
etements, the more lnteresling the landscape.
The more visual variety in a landscape, the more
aesthetically pleasing the landscape. Variety with
out harmony, however, is unattractive, particularly
In terms of alteratlons (cultural modiflcations) that
are made wlthout care.
The Bureau incorporales these and other principies in
lts broad program for managlng visual resources.
The VRM system functions In two ways.
First, for management purposes, the Bureau conducts
an lnventory that evaluates visual resouroes on all

lands under its jurisdiction (lnventoryfEvaluation).

Once lnventorled and analyzed, lands are glven
relative vlsuaJ ratlngs (Management Classiflcatlon).
The development of Management Classes is not
project-specific. lt Is a general process to ldentlfy
broad visual objectives for all public lands.
Second, when development Is proposed, by the
Bureau itself (through its planning process), or by
other agencies or the prlvate sector, the degree of
contras! between the proposed actlvlty and the
existing landscape is measured (Contrast Ratlng).
These comblned steps const ltute the VRM process,
which has a number of applications. The process can
help make the visual lmpact of proposed actlvltles
more acceptable whlle these activltles are stlll In the
deslgn stage. Graphlc slmulatlons of proposed
actlvltles help illustrate the extent of potentlal visual
impact. Modifications may be suggested. Ourlng
pro)ect oonstructlon, monltorlng assesses actual
visual impact. In both lnstances, VAM plays a support
VRM also functions in ctose conjunction with two
other key Bureau programs: Land Use Plannlng,
which aflects nearly every resource declsion, and
Environmental Assessment, whlch Is requlred In
proposals made for projects on BLM managed lands.
The flexlblllty of VRM allows it to be easlly
incorporated into these curren! decision-making
processes as well as into those that may be
developed In the future.



Slmulated Actlvity

MonltOflng t>y Sltelllte lmaQllllY


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To understand how the Bureau of Land Management
manages visual resources, it is important to understand how sorne key terms are used In the VAM
Many of the terms illustrated and brlefly defined here
are drawn directly from the visual arts. Others have
been modlfied somewhat, given special meanings by
their VRM context. All are basic-the "program
language" of VRM.


The mass or shape of an object, which appears unified: often defined by edge, outline, and
surroundlng space.


The palh that the eye follows when percelvlng abrupt dllferences in form, color, or textura.
In the landscape, ridges, skylines, structures, changas in vegetatlon. or Individual trees and
branches may be perceived as line.


The property of reflecting light of a particular wavelength that enables the eye to differen
tlate otherwise lndistlngulshable obJects.


The visual manifestation of the interplay of light and shadow created by variations in the
surface of an object.


The combination of parts into a pleasing or orderly whole; congruity; a state of agreement
or proponlonate arrangement of form, llne, color, and texture.


The condltlon of havlng dlfferentiated parts: the absence of monotony or sameness.


The effect of a stking ditterence in form, line, color, or texture of a landscape's features.


Any manmade change in land, waterform or v~etation (roads, bridges. buildings, fences);
the addition of a structure which creates a visual contrast to the natural character of a
landscape. A negatlve cultural modlflcatlon Is disharmonlous with the exlstlng scenery. A
posltive cultural modification can actually complement and lmprove a particular scene by
adding variety and harmony.



The light source comes from behind the object viewed. The visible tace of the object is
generally in shadow and its edge highlighted.



The light source comes from behind the observer and falls directly on the object viewed.
There is little shadow effect.


The light source comes from one side of the object vlewed. Thls is the light considerad
most effective for evaluating visual contrast.



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Scenlc Quality
Scenlc Ouallty is perhaps best described as the
overall lmpresslon retained after driving through,
walklng through, or flying over an area of land. In the
VRM process, rating Scenic Quality requlres a b<lef
descrlptlon of the existing scenic values in a land
scape. Thls step identifies (1) areas that must be
protected, (2) opportunitles for enhancement and
rehabllitatlon, and (3) opportunities for lmprovement
by reducing the contrast of cultural modificatlons.
When lnventorled, an area is llrst dlvided lnto subunlts that appear homogeneous, generally in terms of
landform and vegetation. Each area is then rated by
seven Key Factors: landform, vegetatlon, water, color,
influence ot ad/acent scenery, scarclty, and cultural
modiflcatlon. A standardlzed polnt system asslgns
great, some, or little importance to each factor. The
values for each category are calculated and.
accordlng to total polnts, three Scen1c Quallty
Classes are determlned and mapped:
Class A Areas that combine the most outstandlng
characterlstlcs of each ratlng factor (19-33 polnts).
Class B Areas in which there is a combinatlon of
sorne outstandlng features and sorne that are fairly
common to the physiographlc reglon (1218 polnts).
Class C Areas In whlch the features are fairly
common to the physiographic reglon (0-11 points).


Scenic Quality lnventory/Evaluation

Rating Criteria and Score






Htgh vert1C01I raliet

:;uc;h ;as Jlf'OITInent
chH$, $l)l1es 01 mas

sive toci. outcrops,

ot severe surlace
varlallOtl or n.ghly
eroelecl forma tlons

nclUGlng malar Dad!;!n<I:; or dune ~rs

tom:s, or dolaJI lea1Ur0$ dormnanl Me!
ex~1oona11y s111 .
and lnulgulng
sucn as g ac:ters.


c1ea1 ano crean AICh COior combln,

ot liOtls, Yllfiety or wv1d

A variery 0 1 ve<,eta- appearlng. s1.i1.



One el 11 kino,
unusually memor- Frw lrom 8$11'1 11cable,
or very rare ally und s.r3ble or

uve types 1n 1n1er- cascad1ng wh11e colee or pleaslng A.dJocen1

greally enllancu wlthln reglen. Con- d 1seoroan1 slgl'lls
u11ng lorms, 1eJ< water. any of wt11c h oontrasts 1n IN! so.1.
v1wa1 c:iua1.1y.
5 sisten! chance ror aoo 1nnLJl!(ICM or
tures. and pattems are a dom nant rock veautau on,
modlflcaHons add

excepton al l\'tldlle

13C1or '" l ho land \\'ator or snoN t1ulds


OI w tldllower VIC1W


fimrably to vls.ual


canyona< CXll10S lltnd drumltns, 0r lnte<est<ng
eros..on pauems or
vanety m s1ze aoo Some v11rloty o l FlO'Ning or stll. bul
&hape oC 1aoof0tms. W!(leta11on bul only not dominMI "' tnc
or deta11 feawres one or lwo lypes.
ll'OMln t and lntet
tstlng thOui;h not
dotnln, ni or

mosa:s. bulles.

Some 1n1ens 1y or
llilnoty 1n color& and AdJiltent scene1v
conl iut ol tho :ool, mod erat ely
roct< ano vegetatlon, Nnce'5 ove.sil YISUSf
but noc a aom1nan1 OU3hty.
scenlc efeme<ll



ltwl .-rea

Low rOlhl\Q hllS

roothllls at nat valley
L.tllle or no wrlely ot ADsen 1. or
bol1om5. lnteshAQdelaJled lanoscape contrast 1n vegela nooceable
leaturea lew or lJO!\.

Sublle color valla

not flons. contrast
1nt erost. gene1aJly
mutlld tones

Sce<1IC quallty IS
i;omel\ hal de!><ectilled by lnharmonOl$t1nct1ve though lous 1ntrvsions. but
some..illlt Stmhlr 10 no1 so Ctonsivaty
otf'H!rs w1th1n lhe lhlll 1ney are enurely
2 negate<I. OI modllf.
cattonr. ad<J ltttle 01
no 'AllUal varlety 10


Adlacent scenery lnletestlng ..,1thln 1ts MOdiltc atlons are so

nas mue or no 1nllu- settlng, but l amy extens1\le that scenic
qualttles are mostly
en ce on o verall common y, uwn tN!
vlsuat quallty.
O reg1on
1 nullll te<J ot soostantiallv raduced


Sc:et\lc Quallty
A Scenery


e Scenery


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Sensltlvity Levels
Although landscapes do have common elements that
can be measured, there is obvlously still a subjectlve
dlmenslon to landscape aesthetlcs. Each vlewer
brlngs perceptlons formed by Individua! lnfluences:
culture, visual tralning, famillarity with local
geography, personal values.
To measure regional and Individual altitudes In the
evaluatlon of a landscape, visual sensitivty is
determlned In two ways:
Use Volume Frequency of travel through an area (by
road, trall, rlver) and use of that area (for recreatlon,
camping, events) are tabulated. The area Is then
asslgned a high, medium. or low ratlng according to
predeterminad classlllcations.

User or Publlc Reectlon Public groups are

famillarlzed wlth the area (11 necessary) and asked to
respond to actlvlties that will modify that landscape.
The concern they express about proposed changes In
scenlc quallty Is also rated high, medium, or fow.
The varlous comblnations of Use Volume and User
Reaction for each area are rated by a matrix to an
overall Sensltlvity Ratlng of high, medium, or fow. A
map Is then developed that lllustrates final Sensltlvlty
Leve Is.


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Sensltlvlty Level Matrlx





Vol ume




Usllf Altltude


Use Volume


FlnI Sensltlvlly




Distance Zones
The visual quallty ol a landscape (and user reactlon)
may be magnllied or dlmlnlshed by the vlslblllty ol
the landscape from major viewlng routes and key
observation points. In the VRM system, thus, dlstance
plays a key part In visual quallty management.
A landscape scene can be divided into three baslc
Dlstance Zones: foreground/mlddleground,
background, and seldom-seen. Because areas that
are closer have a greater elfect on the observer, such
areas requlre more attention than do areas that are
farther away. Distance Zones allow this conslderatlon
ol the proxlmlty of the observer to the landscape.
Selection of t he key viewing points and accurate
assessment of Dlstance Zones requlre sorne
Judgment. Where several routes exlst, what Is
foreground from one route may be background from
another. (The more restrictive designation is used.)
Atmosphcric cond1tions may also modify the
perception of distance.
For small projects, infield photographic assessment
of Distance Zones is usually sufficient. For large
projects. however, or projects that requlre evaluatlon
from many key vlewpolnts, an alternatlve method for
generatlng data is to use a computer graphlc
modellng technlque such as the VIEWIT system.
The process culmlnates in the preparatlon of a final
Distance Zone map.



Dlstance Zonas Example



Dlstance Zonh





Management Classes
Management Classes describe the dlfferent degrees
of modlflcation allowed to lhe baslc elements of the
landscape. Class designations are derived from an
over1ay technlQue that combines the maps of Scenlc
Ouallty, Sensitlvlty Levels and Distance Zones. The
overlays are used to ldentify areas wlth similar
oombinations of factors. These areas are assigned to
one of flve Management Classes according to
predetermined cri teria. The resulting map of
oontlguous areas sharing the same VRM class Is an
importan! document for all Bureau land use plannlng
decisions, and it is also used to assess lhe visual
lmpact of proposed development.

Visual Sensltivity

Speclal Areas

Scenlc Quality

Mlnegtmtnl CIHMI
a111 1 !.___ ___,


Dlstance Zones

C11u 3


Note Ous 5 reas 1re thOM 1N1t h1ve been ldentllled 1n the YAM Dfnnlno
1~1ern .inldl requife rel\il>lltilt.on 0< enllilflC!lmen1 llflO ttierelo<e if9 not
lncluded W1 l hls Chal1.


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Class 1 ecok>gk:al dulnges nd very llmlted

mnoement ctlvlty are llowed. Arry contra1t

cruted wlthln the chantctMiatlc landlcape must not

attract attentlon. Thls clulflcatlon Is applild to
wUdemlM .,..., wlld nd acenlc ""'8, nd other

1tmllr sttuatlons.

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Class 2

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Class 3

Class 4
Any contr11t 1ttracts ettentlon and Is a domlnant
fNtu,. of the lendscape in terma of scale, but it
should repeat the form, Une. color, and texture of the
eharactemtlc landscape.

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Class 5
The classlflcatlon Is applled to areas where the
natural character of the landscape has been
dislurbed lo a poinl where rehabililation is needed lo
brtng lt up to one ol the tour other classlflc~tlons .
The classlficatlon also applles to areas where there is
potentlal to increase lhe landscape's visual quallty. lt
would, for example, be applled to areas where
unacceptable cultural modiflcatlon has towered
scenic quality; lt Is oflen used as an interlm
classlflcatlon untll objectlves of another class can be

Contrast Rating
To evaluate speclflc proposed profec ts, a Contrast
Rating System Is used to measure the degree of
contras! between the proposed actlvlty and the
exlstlng landscape. Thls score Is compared with
allowable levels of contras! for the appropriate
Management Class. The comparlson wlll determine if
mlligallon Is required to reduce visual impacts.
The prooess first segregates a landscape lnto lts
major features (land/water surface, vegetation,
structures) and each feature, In turn, into lts baslc
elements (form, fine, color, texture). Each element Is
asslgned a weighted value based on lts slgnlflcance
4, most important. to
in the landscape (lorrn
1, least lmportant).

The Contrast Ratlng compares the proposed activity

wlth exlsting conditlons element by element, feature
by feature, accordlng to the degree of contrast (3 =
strong, 2
moderate, 1 -= weak, O "" none). The
element value multiplled by the degree of contras!
l ndicates the magnitude of visual impact. For
example, the form (4) of a proposed water tank might
have a moderate (2) con trast wlth a flat landscape.
Therefore, the lorm category of landlwaler surfaces
would produce a Contrast Rating of 8 (4x2).

The Contrast Rating qulckly reveals the exlstlng

features and thelr respective elements that will be
subject to the greatest visual impact. A total contrast
score for each feature may then be used to define the
overall contrast accordlng to the followl ng general
Contras! can be seen but does not attract
attention (0-10 pofnts).
Anracts attentlon and begins to dominate (1120
Demands attention and wlll not be overlooked by
the average observer (21-30 pofnts).
Thls score is then compared to the appropriate
Management Class to determine if contras! totals are
acceptable. lf the proposed project exceeds the
allowable contrast, then a Bureau declslon Is made to
(1) redesign, (2) abandon or reject, or (3) proceed, but
with mitigation measures stlpulated to reduce criticar
Slnce each activlty proposed for Bureau adminlstered
land mus! pass through this evatuatlon, lt has proven
useful to identlfy and m ltlgate extreme contrasts to
scenic quallty In the plannlngfdeslgn stage of a
proposed act lvlty prior to submittal for approval. Thls
pre-evaluation can save time and money because it
forestalls a potentlally lengthy revlsion process.




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Land Use Planning

Because there are such diverse factors affecting the
management of public lands. proper plannlng Is
essentlal. The Bureau bases lts management
decisions on an extensive land use planning process.
This systematic process, whlch now includes careful
consideratlon of visual resources. moves from the
examination of existing conditions ata local scale
through the formulatlon of cumulative land use plans
and comprehensiva decislons on a regional basis.
The basc building block ot the Bureau's multlpleuse
plannlng is the Planning Unt. Resource lnventory
data, planning declsions, and other relevant facts are
recorded tor these units. A Planning Area contains
one or more contiguous Plannlng Units. There are
typically several Planning Areas in a Dlstrict, and
severa! Districts in a State. Each District is the
responsibility of a Oistrict Manager who oversees
plannlng, lmplementatlon and overall operaUon tor
each Plannlng Area.

The VRM process concurrently functions parallel with

the overall plannlng process and lnterconnects at
strateglc polnts.
Resource lnventory and Evalualion draws on VRM for
Scenic Quallty analysls and the ldenllficatlon of
enhancement, rehabilitat ion. or protectlon
opportunities. lt also provides essential background
information for VRM's determlnatlon of visual
Sensltivlty Levels and Dlstance Zones. VAM
Management Classes and recommendations are
reviewed and incorporated lnto the final Resource
Management Plan that sets speciflc resource activity

Envlronmental Assessment
Analysis of potential visual mpact Is required in all
environmental assessments of projects proposed for
Bureau lands. Although the depth of analysis may
vary, lt usually involves several steps dlrectly related

As part of lts planning process, the Bureau prepares

numerous documents. These include documents
which summarize Resource lnventory and Evaluatlon
data, past planning declsions, and other relevant
tacts for the Planning Unit. They analyze the unlt's
potentlal to flll public needs for minerals, recreation,
wlldltfe, forest, and rangeland.


In addition, another document uses socio-economic

informatlon to evaluate the present and future needs
for land and for both renewable and non-renewable

The Bureau then evolves lts land use plan- the

Resource Management Plan, which establshes land
use allocations for Plannlng Areas, sets Bureau
ob}ecllves for each resource and class of land use,
and lays out guidelines for coordinating multlple

lnclusion in the interdisciplinary team ot design

professionals such as architects, landscape
architects, and Jand planners who have expertise
in visual assessment.
Descriplion of the existlng environmentincluding Scenic Quality, Sensitivity Levels,
Distance Zones, and VRM Management Classes.
Analysls of impact and proposed action,
alternatives, and modlfications- includlng
recommendations for mitigating visual impact.
Summary and conclusions- including VRM

The Bureau uses the Contrast Rating System as its

prlmary tool for analyzing the impact of proposed
actions. 11 the Contras! Aatlng score does not meet
the standards far the designated Management Class,
speci fic mitigation measures will be developed and
recommended. These recommendatlons then become
the basis for stiputations written into the approved


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VRM and Energy Development

Although the general outlines of VRM should now be
clear, how VAM works In speclfic instances is
perhaps less clear. Does VRM actually lmprove visual
quallty without obstructing the development of
essential resources?
The answer Is yes, as the following discussion of
VRM and energy will demonstrate.
The United States consumes enormous quantities of
energy-29 percent ot ttle world's total-even though
Americans make up only 5 percent of the world's
population. Coal, natural gas, petroleum, hydroelectrlc
stations, and nuclear plants supply most of this
energy, although solar, wind, and geothermal energy
sources are now put to increasing 1.1se.
Nearly all of these sources can be found on the 400
million acres of land administered by the Bureau. The
development ol these sources, already extensiva,
promises to lncrease and accelerate as our nation
seeks energy self-sufficlency. As a result, showing
how VRM can be applied to energy-related actlvitles
wil hout reducing overall productivity oflers perhaps
the best single demonstration of the system's
Whatever the energy source or the technology used
to turn it into power, energy development typically
occurs in four stages: exploratlon, extraction,
production, and transportation. The actlvltles
pertormed during each stage can serlously impact
environmental quality in general-and visual quality
in particular.

Controlling the visual impact of the numerous.

masslve, and utilltarlan facilities required for energy
development clearly presents a majar challenge to
the Bureau and its VRM system. But that challenge is
beng successlully met.

VRM at Work
The Utah Power and Light Company used VRM
concepts In the locatlon and deslgn of a major
transmlsslon llne. The result was not only mltlgatlon
of visual impact but also a demonstration of how
proper planning can promote cooperation between a
government agency and private industry-and how it
can even save money.

A team of government speclalists trom the Bureau of

Land Management and the United States Forest
SeNice reviewed the transmission route proposed by
Utah Power and Light. Putting VRM concepts to work.
the team establlshed Management Classes for the
lands along the route and used the Contras! Ratlng
System to evaluate the power companys proposal.
Certaln areas, such as those located near a major
recreation site, those easily visible from major roads,
and those In hlghly scenlc terrain such as Spanish
Fork Canyon. presented cause for special concernnot only to the government agencies but also to
people living near the proposed corrldor.
After some negollallon of ways to mtigate the visual
lmpact of the transmisslon line, Utah Power and Light
revisad its initlal proposal. The company hired a
landscape architect to develop visual slmulations
lllustrallng the mitigation measures t was preparad
to undertake. The slmulations were convinclng, the
mtigating measures acceptable, and what otherwlse
might have been serious problems of visual impact
were expeditiousty resolved cfuring the project's
design stage.

Visual lmpacts
The visual impacts of the Hunlington to Camp
Williams transmlsslon llne, llke those ol most
transmlssion lines, are caused essenllally by the
highly visible contrast between the man-made
facilities and the natural elements of the surroundlng
In the interests of safety, transmission lines carrying
extremely hlgh voltage must be strung well above the
ground. The lines run between high towers built at
lntervals of 750 to 1000 feet. Although the shape ol
the towers can vary somewhat. they must be more
than 100 leet hlgh and made of strong, durable
materials llke aluminum or steel. The painted or
galvanizad surface of these metals contrasts strongly
wlth the natural landscape, as do the towers
themselves and the long transmission lines.

Several years ago. the Utah Power and Light

Company faced the task of constructing a new

Preparlng to construct a transmlssion llne also

creates problems of potentially severe visual impact.
Access roads must be built far hauling in the
structures and equipment needed to level tower siles
and to string transmlsslon llne. Wide swathes of
vegetallon must sometimes be cleared along the
transmission route. The construction process itself

transm lssion line from a power plan! at Huntington.

cells for staglng areas and storage yards.

Utah. to the Camp Willlams substallon (located south

of Sall Lake City). Thls line would carry up to 600
Megawatts of electrlcity at 345,000 volts over many
miles of rugged canyon lands and mountalns. To
support the llne, transmlsslon towers slx to seven
storles high would have to be built ali along the
transmission route.
Constructng the transmission line posed some real
problems of potentlal visual impact.

Clearly, constructlon of the Huntington/Camp

Williams line involved contrast wlth the natural
landscape in a number of stages. Clearly, too,
evaluallng varying levels of contrast was an essential
first step, so that the government team and the power
company could then negotiate acceptable levels ot
visual impact.

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Exploratlon Speclflc exploratlon techniques vary

with the energy source and the terrain. In general,
however, the techniques include remote sensing, on
slte mapplng, slte clearing, drilllng, prellmlnary
excavallons, and the construction of reten llon ponds,
access roads. and temporary facilities.

Productlon Produclng energy calls for the

constructlon of electrical generating plants,
hydroelectrlc dams, pumplng stations. petroleum tank
farms, and many other malor facllllles. Solar facilities
may use acres of sotar reflector flelds. Geothermal
plants produce steam, coal plants produce smoke.



Extractlng Techniques will vary. Extracung

petroleum, for example, can requ1re extens1ve well
and pump fac11i11es: extracllng coal can requirc large
slnpm1ne operahons Permanent structurcs are
usually buill during th1s phase as well Because or
overburden removal , coal storage in large piles. and
cons1ruct1on activ1ty for p1pehnes and maintcnancc
roads. ma1or modiflcat1on of landforms often occurs.

Transportalion Transporting energy from the often

remete locat1ons .... hcre 11 1s produced to the
consumer requres pipP,lines (for oil. gas. and coal
slurry) or transm1ss1on linos Construct1on ot these
facillhes as well as the development of extensiva
malntenancc and access roads to such faclhtles docs
1mpact the envlronmenl over long linear comdors
runn1ng for hundreds of miles.


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Mitigation Measures
Negotiation and consuttauon among representa11ves
from Utah Power and Light, the Bureau of Land
Management, and the Forest Servico produced somo
specific mitlgation measures acceptable to 1he
agencies as well as the general publlc.
The 1owers atong the Huntlngton/Camp Wllliams line
were painted in varying colors ol mattefmish
pigments specially developed to blend with the dark
natural landscape. The transmisslon llne conductor
was dulled al 1he factory or was pa1n1ed on slle 10
decrease lls reflect lvlty and to lessen lts vislbility.

Where the line passed through areas of special

scemc lnlerest seen from roads or recreation siles,
tho towers were spaced at broad lntervals of up 10
1600 feet so that fewer lowers were needed. Where
the llne moved across a mountam face readily visible
to the public, 11 was placed hgh on the mountain,
well above a lower existing line. Helicopters dellvered
towers and construchon equ1pmen1 to the mounlain
slde so thal access roads did not have to be built,
and vege1allon was cleared only in the immediate
vlcinity of each tower site. Utah Power and Light used
graphic slmulations to prepos1tion towers and llnes
where they contrasted least wlth 1he landscape,
screening them with trees, hldlng them behind
mountain ndges.


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The cooperatlve efforts of Utah Power and Light, the
Bureau ol Land Management, and the Unlted States

Forest Servlce were successful. both economlcally

and aesthetically.

By ustng graphlc slmulation tochnlqucs to convoy lts

proposals for the reduction of visual lmpact, U1ah
Power and Light was able to move through the
approval process much more ~u ickly than would
otherwise have been possible. The result was
considerable savings of time, which, for a company
undertaking a large construction project, also means
considerable savings In interest costs on money
borrowed for construclion.

By puttlng VRM 10 work, publlc agencies were able to

present thelr requlrements for the mitlgatlon of visual
impact In the objective terms or an lntegrated
assessmenl system.
There have t>een, and wlll be, other axamples 01 how
VRM can be put to effectlve use. In the years to
come, the continuad applicatlon of VRM throughout
the Bureau of Land Management should bring the
Bureau and the public whom it serves ever closer to
our national goal of continuad productlvlty and the
provislon of aesthetlcally pleaslng surroundlngs for
all Amerlcans.

Succcssl ul Mo1MicahOI\



Bureau of Land Management



1532:V B2
As tne N"8tlona pnncl pal c:onservallon agency, ttoe U.S. Oepanment ol
the l nt\ffior has responslblllty tor most of our natlonalty owned publlc
lands and ll#tutal r.sourees. This lncludes rosterlng lile wl sest use ol
our land and water resources. protectlng our llsh and wlldlife,
preseMno the envtronmentaJ and Co.Jllural values o f our natlonat parks
and hlstorlcal places, and provldi ng for the enjoyment ol lile through
outdoof teeroatloo. The Dec>artmcnt assesses our energy and mi neral
resoutOeS ~ wOtks to assure that thelr deYelopment 111 In the best
lnterests ol ali our people. Tl'le Department also has a ma;or
r8$)()<\Slbltity lor Amtriean lndin"tlon eommunltles and ror
people who llve i n lslend territories ooder U.S.. adml nlstration.


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