Visual Impact Assessment Guidebook
Table of Contents
This section identifies the specific visual resource management requirements in forest development plans for proposed new cutblocks and roads. It suggests an approach that ensures that visual resources are adequately managed and conserved. This section also specifies the licensees obligations regarding visual resources for approved cutblocks or roads.
Licensees must identify and describe, in their forest development plans, the location of known scenic areas. They must also specify any protective measures they plan to take to protect forest resources, including known scenic areas. These requirements may be considered as fulfilled if the licensee completes a visual impact assessment for each cutblock and road that falls within a scenic area with an established visual quality objective.
Ministry staff will review proposed category A cutblocks and proposed roads in scenic areas to determine whether or not to recommend to the district manager that they be moved to an approved category A stage for cutblocks and approved roads in the forest development plan. An important aspect of this review is to compare the existing visual condition of the landscape to the established VQO. The amount of existing visible alteration in non-visually effective green-up condition in a given scenic area will determine whether additional visible alteration can be added to this landscape without causing an overall visual impact beyond the target objective (i.e., established VQO). For example, if the existing visual condition is already beyond (i.e., exceeds) the VQO for the area (e.g., EVC = M [Modified] and VQO = PR [Partial Retention]), then a cutblock proposed for clearcutting may not be approved. However, some dialogue may be necessary between the licensee and Ministry staff if a preliminary analysis shows that the new clearcut proposal would not significantly add to the existing visual impact or if a partial cutting silvicultural system is planned. If the existing visual condition is more conservative than the VQO (e.g., EVC = P [Preserved] and VQO = PR [Partial Retention]), then the district manager would most likely approve the cutblock, as long as the VQO is not exceeded. The visual impact assessment will refine the shape, size, and position of the cutblock on the landscape. At this stage in the process, district managers may identify the impact assessments that they wish to review before approving silviculture prescriptions and road layout and designs. Existing visual condition ratings are available from the detailed visual landscape inventory (VLI) mapping at 1:50 000 scale. If the VLI mapping is more than 5 years old, the current visual condition of past cutblocks/roads may have changed since the completion of the inventory due to green-up. A field trip to confirm the EVC may be required if no recent photographs are made available for an office review.
Licensees must identify in their forest development plans those approved category A cutblocks and approved roads that require a visual impact assessment (OPR Sect. 18(1)(i) and (r)). They must also complete the assessment to demonstrate that a proposed cutblock or road would be consistent with the established VQO(s) and do this before the development and submission of a silviculture prescription or road layout and design. Licensees must develop and submit a silviculture prescription or road layout and design that is consistent with visual impact assessment results or recommendations.
The assessment must be submitted to Ministry of Forests staff for review, when requested. If satisfied that the VQO will be met, the district manager approves the silviculture prescription or road layout and design.
Field monitoring is carried out to determine whether the established VQO is met and to determine consistency with the approved plan, prescription, and the visual impact assessment results or recommendations.
Licensees are encouraged to complete visual impact assessments as early as possible in the planning process after cutblocks and roads are approved in the forest development plan. This ensures that potential problems are dealt with quickly and that unnecessary costs associated with revising block layout and design or road construction are avoided.
Before completing the impact assessment, licensees may wish to confirm the viewpoints to be used for the visual simulations with Ministry of Forests staff. In addition, staff from the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture should be consulted about important viewpoints in scenic areas containing identified tourism features. Regional or district guidelines have been issued in certain locations of the province to help define the content and clarify the development of a visual impact assessment.
For known scenic areas with established visual quality objectives, Figures 1 and 2 outline specific visual resource management requirements in forest development plans, silviculture prescriptions, and road layout and designs.
Figure 1 Specific visual resource management requirements for known scenic areas with established visual quality objectives: forest development plans and silviculture prescriptions.
Figure 2 Specific visual resource management requirements for known scenic areas with established visual quality objectives: road layout and design.