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Visual impact planning for timber management in British Columbia Sheppard, Stephen R. J.

Abstract

Information is needed to help forest managers reduce the visual impact of timber management where the public's image of the landscape may be disrupted. Visual impact magnitude may be assessed by extent of deviation from the characteristic landscape. From analysis of 43 visual impacts in the Windermere Public Sustained Yield Unit (P.S.Y.U.) in south-eastern British Columbia, and from selected literature, the independent and interacting visual effects of seventy timber management practices are identified, and rated as inevident, subordinate, or dominant in comparison with visual elements of the landscape. The visual effect of a given practice in a given forest landscape type is predictable with detailed knowledge of both, in most cases. The visual impact magnitude of a timber: management activity can be predicted from the number of most negative visual effects caused by the combination of management practices used. Practices introducing low visual effects or cancelling those of other practices are identified as landscape design tools. Use of landscape design tools is generally compatible with other forest environmental management aims, though exceptions of local importance are foreseen. Forest administration in British Columbia needs to be modified to accommodate visual constraints on timber management. In a case study in the Cartwright Lakes/Steamboat Mountain area in the Windermere P.S.Y.U., the costs of using design tools instead of conventional practices are estimated in three potential logging sites. Lower visual impact magnitudes can be achieved using common logging systems without significant cost increases, where some timber is left between settings in visually critical sites. Unconventional logging systems can raise or lower costs with or without visual constraints, but use as design tools may reduce extra costs on land that is costly to log. With government cut and leave policy and restrictions on logging methods, use of landscape design tools in high priority sites can have negligible cost increases, but it is not known how widely the case study conditions occur elsewhere. A procedure for visual impact planning is advanced, comprising analysis of biophysical and viewing conditions, identification of forest landscape types and visual objectives and selection of design tools to fit them, detailed planning of visual impacts, and graphic prediction of the outcome. Continuing research is needed to substantiate the study findings, and priorities are suggested.

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