Visual Impact Assessment Guidebook
Table of Contents
This section explains how visual impact assessment fits into the Ministry of Forests visual resource management process. The visual resource management process was developed by the Forest Service to establish a framework for taking visual values into account in resource management planning, forest operations, and timber supply analyses. This process has evolved and changed over time. There are currently five recognized steps to this process:
1. Visual Landscape Inventory
2. Analysis and Establishment of Visual Quality Objectives
3. Planning and Visual Design
4. Implementation of Forest Practices
Visual landscape inventories are carried out to delineate, classify, and record areas in the province that are considered "visually sensitive." District managers and or those undertaking planning processes consider this information and may identify scenic areas and establish visual quality objectives under the Forest Practices Code. Where district managers or those undertaking planning processes have chosen to manage visual values, the effects of these decisions on timber supply are analyzed. Once visual quality objectives (VQOs) have been established, on-the-ground forest practices are designed and carried out to achieve stated visual objectives. When harvesting or road construction/modification operations are completed, monitoring is conducted to determine whether these operations achieved the visual objective.
Visual impact assessments (VIAs) are an integral part of step 3 (Planning and Visual Design) of the visual resource management process. These assessments must be completed by licensees for operations proposed in scenic areas with established VQOs before the development and submission of a silviculture prescription or a road layout and design for approval. They are used to estimate the potential visual impact of proposed operations on scenic resources and to assess whether the VQOs would be achieved. Although many methods exist to carry out visual impact assessments, this guidebook presents a set of proven tools that can be used to facilitate the assessment and approval processes.
Appendix 1 provides more detailed information on the visual resource management process, as well as other state-of-the-art techniques and practices as they are currently carried out in British Columbia.
"Visual design" is a term that appears throughout this guidebook. Visual design is a creative process that involves working with the visual patterns and forces of nature to guide changes to the resource in ways that meet the needs of society, both aesthetically and economically. In the context of the visual resource management process, visual design principles are used in the development of landscape- and stand-level cutblock designs to achieve VQOs and visual resource guidelines.
Proposed forest operations should be designed to consider all resource values; they should not simply meet visual resource management guidelines and mitigate negative visual impacts, but should also work with economic, biophysical, ecological, and social values while achieving VQOs. The choice of silviculture system, road layout, and logging practices will all affect the visual resource and should be considered during the initial stages of road and cutblock layout and design. It is the responsibility of all licensees, including those involved with the Small Business Forest Enterprise Program, to carry out visual resource design when operating in scenic areas with or without VQOs.
Visual resource design solutions developed at the landscape level are subsequently refined at the stand level where specific forest practices may be chosen or modified to further reduce adverse visual impact (skid trail and landing locations, slash disposal techniques, etc.).