Visual quality is important consideration in forest plans

Well-designed landscapes create public confidence by reinforcing the idea that our forests are being well managed

Sandy Mackenzie of Wells Gray Community Forest's public advisory committee thanks Del Williams for his presentation on forest stewardship plans on Sept. 21. The presentation was one of several events held as part of National Forest Week.

Sandy Mackenzie of Wells Gray Community Forest's public advisory committee thanks Del Williams for his presentation on forest stewardship plans on Sept. 21. The presentation was one of several events held as part of National Forest Week.

Why is scenery important in B.C.? That was the question that Peter Rennie, regional landscape forester with BC Forest Service, sought to answer during a presentation held Sept. 23 at Dutch Lake Community Centre as part of National Forest Week.

The public puts a high value on natural-appearing landscapes, Rennie said. Such landscapes provide the tourism industry with a marketable resource. In addition, well-designed landscapes create public confidence by reinforcing the idea that our forests are being well managed.

What is visual resource management? According to Rennie, it involves understanding and working with natural characteristics of the landscape when designing development activities. Visual resource management also involves understanding how people perceive – 87 per cent of what we know about our environment is from what we see.

Why are we attracted to landscapes? We have evolved with a dependence on natural landscapes, the landscape forester said, and so we assign meaning and value to landscapes.

Almost 30 years of pubic perception research in B.C. suggests that residents and tourists consistently prefer natural scenes over heavily altered scenes, he reported. Scenery is important to the general public and to our tourism sector. However, scenery and harvesting can co-exist and economic benefits can be optimized.

Design principles are key to natural looking landscapes. Computerized visual simulations are a great tool for showing people what is being planned. Forest planners need to think long term when managing visible landscapes, he said.

 

There were 12 people in the audience for Rennie’s talk. According to one participant, everyone seemed to enjoy his presentation and they asked several questions at the end.