Scenic America’s stance on major policies affecting scenic conservation is based on positions adopted by our board of directors and the expertise of our staff, guided by the values outlined in our white paper Taking the Long View: A Proposal for Realizing America the Beautiful, and the input of our chapters, affiliates, and supporters.
Placemaking: Preserving and Enhancing Community Character
The distinctive character and individual sense of place of many American communities is threatened by a variety of pressures, including poorly planned urban and suburban growth, misguided community leadership and powerful business forces, and the proliferation of massive chain businesses and their concomitant corporate franchise design. Our proposed solutions include:
- Educating our nation’s youth on scenic conservation values through projects such as ViewFinders and working with our partners at Project Green Schools;
- Creating a Gateway Enhancement block grant program to encourage enhancement of the roadways that lead into our communities;
- Expanding the scope of historic districts to include viewshed lands and bordering areas.
Honoring Parks and Open Spaces
An increasing amount of evidence suggests that our country’s parks, open spaces, forests, wilderness areas, and greenways contribute greatly to the health and prosperity of the American public. But a lack of adequate and sustained public funding, disparate advocacy groups, and increasing development pressures threaten existing parks and open spaces, and imperil future additions to current assets. Our proposed solutions include:
- Continuing to partner with the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which leads to the creation of parks and the acquisition of open space*;
- Eliminating the nation’s maintenance backlog on our federal lands, including our National Parks;
- Protecting our National Monuments from loss of status or reduction in size.
*On August 4, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act was signed, ensuring that the LWCF will be funded at $900 million annually. Read more here.
Celebrating Byways and Gateways
The “open road” is synonymous with modern America, and the most treasured of these roads have received state or federal recognition as Scenic Byways for their scenic, cultural, historic, recreational, or archaeological value. Studies have proved that Scenic Byways are sources of pride and economic engines for the communities they traverse. In 2019, Scenic America led the advocacy effort to restore the program through the passage of the “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019.” $16 million in funding for the byways program was included in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, its first dedicated funding in nine years. In February 2021, 15 new All-American Roads and 34 new National Scenic Byways were designated, the first new entries to the program since 2009. Scenic America is now working to ensure the program’s long-term funding in the surface transportation authorization bill. Similarly, gateway roads leading to many of America’s iconic parks, monuments, and communities are under increasing threat from visual blight, which diminishes the overall traveler experience. Our proposed solutions include:
- Funding the National Scenic Byways Program;
- Increase funding to the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to fund roadway improvement in gateway communities;
- Preserve and enhance the aesthetic character of gateway corridors and communities by amending the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to allow gateway communities more flexibility in spending funds on beautification.
Mitigating Visual Impacts of Overhead Wires
Overhead utility wires have a tremendous impact on the visual quality of our built environments due to their proximity to the streetscape and their sheer ubiquity. However, overhead wires, unlike billboards, provide the public with tangible benefits: we cannot do without the electricity and other vital services that these wires transmit. So, the challenge is how to best limit the impacts of these necessary wires on our visual environments. Our proposed solutions include:
- Advocate for changes to federal transportation programs to allow underground of existing overhead wires as an allowable expense;
- Pursue objective costs and benefits analyses of converting existing overhead wires;
- Encourage a federal “Dig Once” policy for co-locating existing overhead wires with other utility improvements in existing rights-of-way.
Promoting Beautiful Highways
A substantial portion of the White House Conference on Natural Beauty was dedicated to determining how to protect the visual character of the roadsides of America’s burgeoning highway system. It produced an early draft of the Highway Beautification Act with a stated purpose to protect the public investment in highways and to preserve the natural beauty of the landscapes they traverse. However commercial and private interests, particularly those of the outdoor advertising industry, continue to threaten our roadsides and undermine the goals of “Lady Bird’s Law.” Our proposed solutions include:
- Enacting federal and state legislation to prohibit the destruction of public trees to increase billboard visibility;
- Work to change federal and state laws so that billboards are limited to commercial areas;
- Fight against the proliferation of digital billboards in our local communities.
For more information, check out our various position papers:
- On the relationship of digital signs to the Highway Beautification Act, including relevant language in the law and regulations, click here.
- Model Billboard Legislation
- Trees in Your Community: An Important But Disappearing Resource
- Tree Cutting Near Billboards
- Model Ordinance for Wireless Telecommunications Towers
- Model Legislation for Context Sensitive Solutions