Shale gas development brings substantial and long-term change to rural landscapes, change that most citizens recognize by what they see—heavier traffic on the highway, pipeline right-of-ways at the skyline, and what they experience as a result of lost forest cover—fewer songbirds at the feeder, cloudier streams when it rains. This paper focuses on facilitating citizens’ ability to participate in the design and planning of large-scale changes to the landscape. In the absence of clear federal or state oversight, the leasing choices of individual citizen landowners and the gas industry are the land planning instruments affecting shale gas development. For citizen landowners, the visual consequences of change may be key to determining what is acceptable or unacceptable development. In a series of studies, the authors projected the areal land-use change resulting from access roads and pipelines that would be needed to support projections of gas development in North-eastern Pennsylvania. The authors identified planning scenarios derived from those projections and represented them as photo-renderings and GIS-based informational graphics. The TR-55 runoff calculator was used to estimate the impact on downstream flooding and a regression model of perceived visual quality to assess visual impacts and also represented these outputs graphically. All of these products were used in land-use planning workshops for citizens enrolled in a Community Science Volunteer program for informal science education of adults. This paper examines the evaluations of participants in the programs including citizens’ acquisition of new knowledge about land planning, their comprehension of planning principles, and their feelings of empowerment to engage in community and county-wide planning. While the number of respondents is restricted to the limited numbers attending community events, in all cases responses indicate the usefulness of our extensive use of visual representation and visual evaluation in interpreting land-use planning options available to citizens in these highly contested land-use scenarios.
Environmental Practice 17: 245–255 (2015)