The consideration of aesthetic values in North American resource and environmental management is generally cited as having emerged in the 1960s (Priestly 1983; Dearden and Sadler 1989). With growing attention to environmental issues on the social and political agendas of the time, the quality--or, more fittingly, the deteriorating quality--of the environment round a place in the consciousness of North Americans. It was not long before environmental protection legislation was introduced in response to environmental quality concerns, most notably with the landmark US National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 calling for 'presently unquantified environment amenities and values [to] be given appropriate consideration in decision-making along with economic and technical considerations' to assure 'safe, healthful, productive and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings' (Cutler 1979, 13). Canadian policy in land use, forest practices and environmental assessment since then has included the need to recognize these intangibles, including the aesthetic dimension of environment.
Resource and environmental management and land-use agencies began to manage and plan for the aesthetic, conceived of primarily in visual terms as scenic beauty (and diminished aesthetic quality as visual blight). Practitioners measured and managed the 'visual resource' (e.g., USDA Forest Service 1974; Yeomans 1983), researchers studied people's perceptions of and preferences for landscape scenes (e.g., Shafer et al. 1969; Kaplan 1985) and theorists sought explanations for how and why we appreciate particular landscapes (e.g., Appleton 1975). Practical assessment techniques, management programs and research endeavours formed a loose but unified field, referred to here as 'landscape assessment' and by others as 'assessment of landscape quality' (Daniel and Vining 1983), 'environmental aesthetics' (Porteous 1982, 1996) and 'landscape perception research' (Zube et al. 1982). (1) By the 1990s, aesthetic considerations had become institutionalized--indeed, entrenched--in environmental and resource- management practice as visual resource management (VRM).
This paper challenges the dominant entrenched view of landscape aesthetics, which is beginning to be questioned in the literature (e.g., Sheppard and Harshaw 2001). In the first part of this paper, a context for the consideration of landscape aesthetics is established. The evolution of landscape assessment in environment and resource management is discussed, and a simple conceptual framework for organizing various approaches is offered. Next, an empirical study, in which an experiential approach to landscape was developed and applied, is presented. The experiential method and its outcomes are then discussed in relation to the conventional expert approach to landscape assessment, with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests visual-landscape management program as the exemplar. In the closing sections, opportunities offered by an experiential approach to supplement and enrich current landscape assessment and visual management, and to support and direct the reorientation of resource and environmental management more broadly, are highlighted.
The Evolution of Landscape Assessment
While the alliance of aesthetics and resource management is fairly recent, the idea of our environs as a source of pleasure or motivation for aesthetic response has been the topic of works of art, writing and intellectual thought in the Western world since at least the time of the ancient Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle (Eaton 1989). During the Sixteenth century, depictions of beautiful countryside came to be the focus of, rather than the backdrop for, painting and drawing. By the eighteenth century, these 'landscapes' found physical expression in the work of naturalistic landscape gardeners, such as Capability Brown. Throughout the nineteenth century, gardening and architecture, influenced greatly by Romanticism, were the dominant ways of manipulating the physical environment for aesthetic purposes. Scenic touring and viewing became a popular pastime for the wealthy, and the 'tourist gaze' spread as advancements in transportation technology enabled more travelling. These traditions continued and were popularized in the twentieth century, with attention to parkway and urban-park design and with the rise of personal automobile ownership in the post-World War II era (Wilson 1991).
Despite this longstanding attention to aesthetics, beauty as an environmental concern is more recent (Dearden 1980). (2) But it maintains connections with these traditions. The literature on the history of landscape, aesthetics and natural beauty in art, architecture, literature, geography and philosophy is extensive: the reader is directed to Newton (1971), Barrell (1972), Cosgrove (1978, 1984), Casey (1993), Kemal and Gaskell (1993), Porteous (1996), Coates (1998) and Carlson (2000) for further reading on this topic.
The evolution of landscape assessment since the 1960s has involved a variety of disciplines and professions, offering different methods, theoretical perspectives and philosophical orientations, 'generating a seemingly diffuse collection of studies and findings' (Zube et al. 1982, 2). Design principles from landscape architecture and resource-analysis tools have been the most influential factors in the development of methods for the practice of landscape assessment (e.g., Litton 1968). In the 1970s, behavioural geography--especially the impact of the quantitative revolution--and psychology directed the contribution of social sciences to landscape assessment, which came to include the experimental measurement of observer responses to landscapes. At the same time, however, other geographers were pointing out the limitations of the then-dominant methods of spatial science. Their investigations highlighted qualitative and subjective experiences and meanings, without the analytical separation of human subjects and landscape objects (Johnston et al. 1994). By the 1980s, comprehensive reviews were examining the disciplinary traditions and their divergent methods, theory and philosophical orientations. Each culminated in a categorization of the different conceptual approaches to landscape assessment. These categorizations were often remarkably similar.
A Conceptual Framework for Approaches to Landscape Assessment
In general, the conceptual bases for landscape assessment approaches have been seen to fall along a continuum (Figure 1), although they have also been classified in other ways (e.g., Gifford 1987; Mitchell 1989). Approaches range from expert-based ones relying on evaluation by professionals, through perceptual and experimental approaches obtaining observer responses to landscape photographs, to experiential and humanistic approaches exploring and clarifying meanings of landscape. A summary of each approach in the continuum provides a starting point for presenting an empirical study employing the experiential approach and its subsequent discussion in light of the dominant expert approach.
Expert-based landscape assessment
'Expert' or trained observers identify and measure features and relationships among visible landscape elements that are assumed to contribute inherently to aesthetic quality. The premise is that 'landscapes possess a unique and complex language' that professionals or trained observers can learn and apply in objective visual analysis (Hamilton 1996, 2). Landscape attributes include physical features such as water and topography, properties such as diversity or extent of view and formal abstract elements, expressed in design terms such as forms, lines and textures. The aim of assessment is measurement, description and classification of landscapes (British Columbia Ministry of Forests 1994; USDA Forest Service 1996). These tasks have been aided in recent years by geographical information sciences and computer technology for visualization (e.g., McGaughey 1998; Haider 2001).
Outcomes of expert assessment are generally statements or maps of aesthetic quality along a single dimension, such as scenic quality (e.g., Cocklin et al. 1992) or visual sensitivity (e.g., British Columbia Ministry of Forests 1994). Management and planning activities emphasize conserving scenery or improving areas with low visual quality using mitigation measures to increase the presence of features deemed to enhance aesthetic quality. Expert approaches provide the basis of visual-resource management in North America, including the USDA Bureau of Land Management (Zube 1986) and British Columbia's Visual Landscape Management Program (British Columbia Ministry of Forests 1994). To the extent that such agencies and departments have mandates over vast land areas, these approaches are potentially the most influential in terms of actual environmental modifications. The landscape inventory phase of the British Columbia Ministry of Forests program is described here as an example of the expert approach, in enough detail to aid in the discussion later in the paper of how an experiential approach can inform landscape assessment.
British Columbia Ministry of Forests Visual Landscape Inventory
The British Columbia Ministry of Forests' VRM program has evolved since the early 1980s. Currently, the program provides direction and well-documented procedures to guide landscape assessment and visual management across the entire province. The first of six phases of the visual-management process (Table 1), the visual landscape inventory, is characteristic of this expert-based approach.
The inventory 'identifies, classifies and records (maps) the visual conditions, characteristics and sensitivity to alteration of areas and travel corridors throughout the province' (British Columbia Ministry of Forests 1995, 4), providing visual-resource information for decision makers and forest licensees to use in forest-development planning. Procedures and standards are outlined in the Visual Landscape Inventory Procedures and Standards Manual, referred to as 'the Manual' (British Columbia Ministry of Forests 1997). Besides providing information for forestry planning, the inventory is part of the Recreation Resources Inventory (RRI), establishing the aesthetic dimension of landscape as primarily a recreation resource.
The first of two stages in the inventory, the broad-scale …