Inventory & Mapping

Two visitors take in the view from a bench

NPS Photo / M. Reed


Ask three people to describe what they see when looking at a view and you will likely hear three different answers. Describing scenic views is complex, and without a systematic method, individuals might approach it in many different ways. Luckily, the National Park Service (NPS) inventory method gives us a clearly defined way to document and analyze scenic views consistently. When approached in this way, scenic views can be measured, managed, and ultimately protected.

The first step in managing scenery is learning what’s out there. Inventory can provide:

  • A baseline for monitoring visual changes over time
  • Maps that show view locations, visible areas, and values
  • Information that helps us understand the potential visual impacts of projects
  • Useful data for park management and planning
  • Support for working with neighbors on scenic conservation

The NPS method for inventorying scenic views is called visual resources inventory. The NPS inventory is set-up to capture viewer’s perspectives by mapping and analyzing views as they are experienced in the landscape. The inventory gives equal weight to the aesthetic beauty (scenic quality) of views and their importance.

The NPS visual resources inventory system was specifically designed to support the NPS mission to preserve and protect scenic views for future generations while providing helpful data for park management. Learn more about the key concepts of our system and the inventory process.

Last updated: April 28, 2020


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