ECORP Staff Completes BLM Visual Resources Management Training – A Requirement to Analyze Visual Resources in EAs and EISs on BLM Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing public lands for multiple uses. One of BLM’s responsibilities in managing public lands is to ensure that the scenic values of these public lands are considered before allowing uses that may have a negative visual impact. BLM accomplishes this through its Visual Resource Management (VRM) system. BLM’s National Training Center (NTC) developed a course that trains analysts how to use the VRM system to assess a proposed activity’s visual impacts on the landscape. ECORP staff Dave Krolick and Alfredo Aguirre recently participated in the VRM course that took place in Las Vegas, Nevada from October 29 through November 2, 2012 .

The VRM system involves inventorying scenic values, establishing management objectives for those values through the resource management planning process, and then evaluating proposed activities to determine whether they conform to the management objectives. The course included both classroom instruction and site visits to various alternative energy projects in the Ivanpah Valley. The course ended with group projects that involved simulated proposed activities. Groups developed visual simulations and conducted analyses on visual contrast of the activities and the landscape. If the proposed activities were found not to be in conformance with the management objective of the area, then the groups developed strategies for minimizing contrast to comply with the management objectives.

Participating in this course has given ECORP a better understanding of the basic principles and concepts of the VRM system and the role of visual resource management in BLM’s land use planning and activity planning. This course has also helped ECORP tune its skills and knowledge necessary to inventory visual resources, analyze the landscape, and develop mitigation strategies for minimizing contrast to the landscape from proposed activities. This course qualifies ECORP to assist clients in navigating and processing proposed activities through BLM’s VRM system. ECORP is qualified to analyze a proposed activity’s visual contrast with the landscape, taking into account the scenic values of the land and BLM’s management objectives. ECORP can assist clients design proposed activities in a manner that reduces visual contrast with the landscape. ECORP can conduct visual simulations to assist in the analysis. Such analysis would be incorporated into a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document and taken into account by BLM officials when making a decision on a proposed activity.