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Visibility and Regional Haze

Picture of Shenandoah National Park on a clear day and on a hazy day

People throughout the country value good visibility. The regional haze program is designed to improve visibility and air quality in our most treasured natural areas so that these areas may be preserved and enjoyed by current and future generations. At the same time, control strategies designed to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas will improve visibility over broad geographic areas, including other recreational sites, our cities and residences.

CAMNET - Realtime Air Pollution and Visibility Monitoring Exit EPA Click for disclaimer. CAMNET brings you live pictures and corresponding air quality conditions from scenic urban and rural vistas in the Northeast. With CAMNET, a project of NESCAUM, you can literally see the effects of air pollution on visibility.

What is Haze and How is it Formed?

Haze obscures the clarity, color, texture, and form of what we see. Some haze-causing pollutants (mostly fine particles) are directly emitted to the atmosphere by a number of activities such as: electric power generation, various industrial and manufacturing processes, truck and auto emissions, burning related to forestry and agriculture, and construction activities. Other haze-causing pollutants are formed when gases emitted to the air form particles as they are carried downwind. Examples include sulfates, formed from sulfur dioxide, and nitrates, formed from nitrogen oxides.

What is Regional Haze?

Emissions from the activities mentioned above generally span broad geographic areas and can be transported great distances, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles. Consequently, haze occurs regionally throughout the nation.

What is a Class I Area?

The Clean Air Act defines mandatory Class I Federal areas as certain national parks (over 6000 acres), wilderness areas (over 5000 acres), national memorial parks (over 5000 acres), and international parks that were in existence as of August 1977.

What are the Consequences of the New Regional Haze Regulations?

The Regional Haze Regulations call for States to establish goals for improving visibility in national parks and wilderness areas and to develop long-term strategies and regulations for reducing emissions of air pollutants that cause visibility impairment. The steps States take to implement these regulations are expected to have the additional benefit of improving visibility in broad areas across the country beyond the Class I areas addressed specifically in the new regulations. EPA has encouraged the States to work together in developing their Regional Haze Plans by providing funds for regional planning organizations.

What are the Class I Areas in Region III?

Class I Areas in Region III are Shenandoah National Park - VA, and the wilderness areas Dolly Sods - WV, Otter Creek - WV, and James River Face - VA.

More Information

For a further discussion on visibility and haze, see EPA's brochure Haze -- How Air Pollution Affects the View  (432K Portable Document Format (PDF) file requires Adobe's free Acrobat Reader Exit EPA Click for disclaimer to view.)  

Check out the SIP template, links to all final RH SIPs are and all modeling/technical documents created by the RPO are posted Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Visibility Union (MANE-VU) Exit EPA Click for disclaimer

The Visibility Improvement State and Tribal Association of the Southeast (VISTAS) Exit EPA Click for disclaimer is a collaborative effort of state governments, tribal governments, and various federal agencies established to initiate and coordinate activities associated with the management of regional haze, visibility and other air quality issues in the Southeastern United States.

For information about individual parks and wilderness areas, visit the National Park Service Exit EPA Click for disclaimer, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Exit EPA Click for disclaimer and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Exit EPA Click for disclaimer websites.

For more specific information from the National Park Service, visit the National Park Services Visibility Monitoring Program Exit EPA Click for disclaimer website. EPA's Office of Air & Radiation also has more detailed information on haze in their Visibility website.

For additional information about EPA's final regional haze regulations, access the following documents:

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