Protect and Enhance Scenic Quality

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The Columbia River Gorge is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty. In a stretch of just 85 miles, one can view awe inspiring natural landscapes of forests and dramatic waterfalls, towering cliffs and sweeping grasslands, as well as a more rural landscape consisting of orchards, vineyards and pasture lands. The need to protect the special scenic resources of the gorge for future generations is an integral component of the National Scenic Area Act.

These measures track the visual impacts of development on scenic quality. To evaluate the scenic qualities of the natural and rural landscapes of the National Scenic Area, one needs to look at how the built environment contrasts with the surrounding landscape. Many thousands of gorge citizens live within the boundaries of the Scenic Area and new development does occur. In fact, one of the more complicating factors concerning assessing the health of scenic resources is the fact that the gorge is a working landscape. Much of the privately owned land outside of urban areas continues to be used for agriculture and forest practices. These uses supported by the Act, however, a recent shift from orchards and grazing to vineyards is quickly altering the appearance of the rural landscape. Assessing the impacts of these kinds of changes and whether or not they are negative will surely be a major topic of discussion as we continue to collect this data and use it for future policy decisions.