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Viewscape Management

Continual attention must be given to the beauty of "the place." Superior management of forests, farms, even animal populations, if judged to be ugly or distasteful (even by a small group of people) results in claims of poor management The views or scenes must be appropriate, the context or setting for superior management.

Esthetically very satisfying conditions is one of the major elements of the Rural System concept and The Trevey system . We propose herein, not to suggest how to "make money" from the views or scenes but you will not lose money or productive potential from land because our collective actions diminish perceptions of landscape beauty. Our computer analyses can produce maps of areas seen from any point. these maps allow us to select places for roadside turnouts, places for contemplation, and recreational or picnic sites. They can also show places and points that can see into a point (see to).

Computers can be used to select places where something can be "hidden," e.g., a mill site or a waste disposal area. Road layout can be influenced to provide maximum views (or to hide the road in places where variety is not wanted.

Impacts of proposed development (e.g., a powerline) can be evaluated and scenery included as one among many variables used to improve location decisions.

We have developed a regional landscape beauty index that will allow a standard route to be followed through a region for analyses of between-year comparisons or before-after comparisons.

Forests may grow and scenery or views change over time. In some cases, visual barriers can be created that demonstrably change views (e.g., allowing blemishes to be obscured.)

Viewscapes as a group also includes work on standard logo, color, letter size and style, flags, garden appearance, decor, scale, and related topics. Air quality analyses are coordinated with the Fire Force in relation to smoke management.

We perceive that viewscapes are resources. They must be managed. They can be harmed or impaired by fire, logging, grazing, or developments. Specific developments, properly placed may frame scenes or add variety. Scenes can be enhance (remove that tree; move that rock to frame the view; add a tree barrier). The seasonal color changes can be announced to encourage or reduce visitor use or enjoyment. Changes in viewscapes may detract from some wildlife; efforts to improve wildlife population habitats may detract from the quality of a scene. The presence of a notable, beautiful animal can create a scene of breathtaking, life-long remembered beauty or spectacle.

A viewscape is all of the land and water seen from a point or along a series of points (a road or trail). Viewscape management includes describing, planning, and designing the visual aspects of all aspects of the area. All resource activities or management practices are included. Activities typically will include on the ground and computer-aided analyses of visual influences at least before construction or action. Actions, wherever possible, will be harmonized within the viewscape.

Stillman (1966:5) said:

"One thing is true, I am sure -- and that is that the scenery of a view is irrelevant. A view offers a chance to look away at nothing much; to see variety in distance, shape, color, and texture. One thinks about anything but what one sees at such a time. We all need the chance to look with unseeing eyes; we all need the chance freely to restructure our world as we see fit."

Preliminary Viewscape management distance zones (foreground, middleground, and background) have been established. The viewing points are typically: shore from lake positions; roads, trails, peaks, streams, recreational areas, viewing towers or platforms, and major entrance and exit areas.

The area provides points, linear views, and vast areas or vistas judged differently as interesting, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. The natural components of the area are attractions for many. Changes in where people live and increased urbanization will likely increase interest in the scenic values of the area.

Minor changes in a viewscape can cause significant outcry and concern for the scenic resource or overall viewscape of the area.

Sensitivity zones will be mapped. Level I zones have great importance or sensitivity to visual change. The levels are closely related to the risk of being viewed as "ugly" or, conversely the probability of falling from a class of "beautiful."

Size and location of forest operations (if any) are an example of a viewscape problem of concern.

All future developments will use the viewscape analyses from The Trevey.

Robert M. Shaffer (1995) wrote that logging is sometimes viewed unfavorably by the general public. Dramatic change is the trigger that creates a negative perception of the activity. To reduce the negative visual impacts of a timber harvest he recommends:

  1. Avoid leaving rutted haul roads or skid trails
  2. Cut trees (rather than pushing them over with a bull dozer) when building roads and remove as much of the roadside debris as possible
  3. Clear landings of all woody debris, level and smooth the ground, and stabilize the soil with grass
  4. Lop large tops down to 2-4 feet above the ground in the publicly exposed harvest areas
  5. Create a natural-appearing, uneven edge to clearcut areas
  6. Vary the shape and size of clearcut areas -- generally keep them small
  7. Leave islands or clumps of trees irregularly spaced throughout a clearcut
  8. Leave a visual screen or buffer of trees or other vegetation along a public road corridor
  9. Shield landings from view of public highways by using topography or vegetative barriers
  10. Keep mud off public roads!
  11. Cut stumps low to the ground
  12. Minimize the number of trees in areas of high visibility that are pushed over or have their bark, top, or lower branches damaged
  13. Remove skinned-up or damaged trees
  14. Fell trees with broken tops or limbs
  15. Minimize the amount of logging slash or debris by maximizing the utilization of each felled tree
  16. Pick up and properly dispose of all garbage, oil cans, equipment parts, etc.

Following these suggestions will demonstrate pride of quality workmanship prevalent among modern professional loggers.

Other significant aspects of the planned action:

  1. Consistent use of color.
  2. Consistent use of texture.
  3. Consistent use of golden-section proportions.
  4. Minimum signs.
  5. Scaled signs.
  6. View point management.
  7. Air quality management or emphases.
  8. Interpretive aids to scenes (names or ridges; time to hike to point x).
  9. Roadside view (corridor view) protection.
  10. Trail location to include viewpoints.

We plan to evaluate the potential visual impact of all management activities (recreation, timber, water, wildlife, and mineral activities, road, trail, and facility construction and species uses.) Trained personnel will make evaluations. If the evaluation shows an unacceptable contrast rating, or if a feature or focal landscape is involved, efforts will be made to reduce effects or alter the project.

In the 1980s A. Blair Jones developed software as part of his Power System to do visual analyses for powerline placement. He developed conspicuousness indices for every 27-acre cell within a very large, multi-county study area boundary. Every cell was tested to see if it can be seen from a person in all cells inside the boundary and all cells within 3 miles of the boundary. Impacts of proposed off-site development (e.g., factories) can be evaluated as they may be seen from a tract. Sites can be selected to "hide" developments on or within a tract. He made applications using viewing points of historic buildings and all cells containing major roads from which people might see a point or object (e.g., a tower. Conspicuousness was potential and was merely the count of cells and avoided issues of beauty, weather, season, leaf-on conditions and the visual acuity of observers.

See Rural System's Viewscapes

See Scenic Quality Management

See Autumn Colors

See Viewscapes Group


See Stills - Favorite Images

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Last revision April 13, 2004.