Transmission Lines in Wildland Landscapes: Gauging Visual Impact Among Casual Observers
Slusser, Andrea Michelle
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Landscape assessments and visual impact analyses conducted for federal agency policy and planning purposes are performed by visual resource experts. Little input is gathered from members of the public, in whose interest these policies and planning measures are developed. While research has explored public perception of transmission lines in urban settings, such as the International Electric Transmission Perception Project conducted in the mid-1990s, little is known about how casual observers perceive transmission lines on wildland and rural landscapes. Working with rural and wildland landscapes, my work gauges impacts to the visual experience from high-voltage transmission lines. I ask how the number of transmission lines, their distance from the viewer, the design of the towers themselves, or other structures in the landscape influence the visual experience. To assess these questions, I developed and conducted a web-based survey to evaluate participant response to, and preference for, photographs depicting a series of rural and wildland landscape images, most of which contained high-voltage transmission lines. Survey questions were formatted for both closed-ended (Likert scales) and open-ended written responses. Survey responses from two hundred thirty participants were recorded. Data were collected using the Google Docs application and analyzed using Microsoft Excel for the quantitative data and Atlas.ti for the qualitative data. For the latter, recurring words and phrases were used to gauge how participants perceive high-voltage transmission lines in wildland and rural landscapes. For at-a-glance ease of understanding, data were analyzed and organized using a combination of traditional graphics as well as colored gradient scales. Results indicated that most casual observers do find high-voltage transmission lines in rural and wildland landscapes disruptive and would prefer not to see transmission lines in these settings. Though this work is not intended or expected to provide a definitive response to the question of visual perception of transmission lines among casual observers, trends identified can assist transmission line designers and federal land management agencies in the siting and mitigation processes.