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This project is located on the Pinedale Anticline in western Wyoming. The project proponent was seeking a permit from BLM for the development of several oil and gas drilling sites. A full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was required, including a complete analysis of the impacts on visual resources using the BLM’s Visual Resource Management (VRM) system.

Ellsworth and Associates, landscape architects, inc. was contracted by the proponent to conduct the visual analysis which included extensive use of GIS visibility mapping, computer visual simulations, contrast rating, and recommendations for visual mitigation strategies.

The visibility mapping was accomplished by EALA using 10-meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data referenced to several Key Observation Points (KOP’s). Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was utilized to determine the precise location of the KOP’s. A typical driver’s observation height of 3.75 feet was established. ArcInfo GIS software was then used to generate visibility maps for nine drilling sites.


On these maps, red represents areas of the landscape from which an individual proposed oil and gas drilling site would be visible if 12-foot tall tanks were used. Yellow represents additional areas from which the drilling site would be visible if 20-foot tall tanks were used. Numerous visibility maps were developed for each of the various proposed drilling sites.

Computer Visual Simulations were required for the contrast rating analysis of three of the drilling sites that were in close proximity to the existing US highway. Eight KOP’s were established for which 12 computer visual simulations were developed, showing the change in visual condition 25 years into the future when revegetation would be complete.

Various development options were simulated to show how a change in location of the drilling pad and facilities would affect the visual experience of the passing motorist. Careful attention was paid to accurately simulating the subtle changes in the appearance of the landforms required to construct the access road and level drilling pad with successful revegetation 25 years into the future.

EALA's work added value to the Pinedale Anticline Oil and Gas project in the following ways...

  • Significantly decreased costs to the oil and gas proponent by providing a clear and accurate understanding of the project intent in the planning and permitting process
  • Made full use of the required BLM VRM system including detailed contrast rating analysis
  • Provided a shared visual reference for all stakeholders involved in the project, including the public
  • Provided valuable information in the design and planning phase of project facility siting
  • Increased the level of cooperation and partnering between the project proponent, BLM, and stakeholders
  • Provided an example of excellence in visual resource analysis and management for oil and gas projects in the intermountain west


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