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Many of America’s most majestic landscapes are managed for the enjoyment of the public by federal land management agencies like the United States Forest Service (USFS), the National Park Service (NPS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Each of these agencies is entrusted with stewardship of the resources these landscapes provide, including scenic resources, as set forth in the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 1969.

While agencies such as the Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have missions that are conducive with protection of visual character, the BLM and Forest Service are charged with multiple use mandates that expressly permit resources uses that have the potential for long term visual scars, such as could be caused by timber harvest, oil and gas production, and grazing to name a few. Both agencies are responsible for balancing these multiple uses in an appropriate manner that includes public involvement and feedback on project activities. These agencies have developed resource protection policies for scenery that is utilized at the planning and project levels to ensure adequate protection of scenic resources.

Scenic America remains the ONLY national group advocating for and monitoring the management of scenic resources in our national parks, forests, refuges, and public lands. Scenic America has undertaken several initiatives associated with visual resource protection and federal land management. In 2001, we published America the Beautiful: Promise vs. Performance in Federal Policies and Practices for Scenic Conservation (available via our online bookstore), which provides a status update of each agency’s policies as well as a relative scorecard rating on performance in implementing these policies. This document was written to help draw public attention to the important role that many federal agencies have in protecting landscape character and the many internal challenges they face in fulfilling their missions.

This effort was followed up in 2004 with the Symposium on Scenic Conservation: Public Agency Practice (summary report available for download here), a two-day workshop sponsored in part with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Bureau of Land Management. This workshop brought together more than 30 leaders in the field of visual resource management in order to help Scenic America develop an Action Agenda for Scenic Conservation with particular focus on federal and other public agency practice. Our hope is that we will be able to build on the action items develop during this workshop in a manner which galvanizes people in the federal, private, public, and business sectors to engage in activities to conserve America’ scenic heritage.