Protecting America’s Scenic Beauty for More than 40 Years
Originally called the Coalition to Preserve Scenic Beauty, Scenic America was founded in 1982 by a group of individuals concerned about the state of America’s visual character, particularly that of our country’s roadsides.
Although the Highway Beautification Act had passed in 1965, there were issues with its implementation. Some of its best intentions never materialized, and outdoor advertising companies quickly discovered loopholes that enabled them to make additional money from billboard removal.
Such issues with the Highway Beautification Act caught the attention of environmental activists at the time, such as Scenic America co-founders Charlie Floyd, who urged the Carter administration to take action on the shortcomings of this legislation. In 1977, at Floyd’s urging, the Secretary of Transportation formed the National Advisory Committee to re-examine the Highway Beautification Act. The committee was made up of representatives from the billboard industry and environmentalists, with both sides represented equally.
President Carter appointed another co-founder, Ruth Becker, to serve as one of the environmental voices on this committee, which began to meet regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of the Highway Beautification Act.
Although the Committee was unable to achieve much before being dissolved by the Reagan administration in 1981, members such as Ruth and Charlie viewed its gatherings as opportunities to have sidebar discussions on other potential pathways to success through activism. At the conclusion of the final meeting, a few of the attendees gathered in a conference room at the Holiday Inn and made plans to form an organization to fight for scenic beauty.
With no money and no staff, Ruth stepped forward and took on the responsibility of formally establishing the National Coalition to Preserve Scenic Beauty, which later became the Coalition for Scenic Beauty. The organization was officially renamed Scenic America in 1989.
Today Scenic America is the only national nonprofit whose sole purpose is to safeguard the scenic qualities of America’s roadways, countryside, and communities. Based in Washington, DC, Scenic America currently has 46 state and local chapters and affiliates, and more than 80,000 members and supporters around the country.
We work to foster citizen engagement in scenic conservation issues by advocating for policies that encourage scenic beauty at the local, state, and national levels by providing research, educational and technical assistance, and by assisting in the formation of affiliate organizations.
Our accomplishments include:
- Supporting the establishment of the National Scenic Byways Program in 1991, and leading the effort in Congress to revive the program in 2019 and to restore dedicated funding in FY 21, 22, and 23.
- Ensuring that the federal government and states uphold provisions of the Highway Beautification Act, helping to stop new billboard construction in hundreds of communities nationwide, and helping to successfully defend communities’ rights to ban digital billboards in the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Successfully advocating for federal support for utility undergrounding, programs in gateway communities, and other scenic priorities in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
- Earning recognition from the American Society of Association Executives for our outstanding advocacy and communications work in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
About Our Founders
Marion Fuller BrownThe citizen activist and legislator led the push to ban billboards in Maine.
Charles FloydA real estate professor, Charlie became a leading voice and advocate for scenic issues in his home state of North Carolina and across the country.
Ellen KellyA lifelong conservationist, Ellie brought her experience with the Garden Club of America to help guide Scenic America in its early days.
Ruth BeckerA pioneering environmentalist, Ruth gave Scenic America its first home base in Philadelphia to jump-start its operations.