Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project 6065063

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Public Perception of Variable Retention Harvesting: A Research Report Investigating Public Perceptions of Acceptability

Author(s): Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP)
Subject: British Columbia, Forestry, Silviculture/Forest Management Systems
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program - Innovative


Variable retention (VR) was in part developed to address the public desire for more sustainable forestry. On the ground, foresters apply the 'BCTV test' (i.e., will the public view a cutblock as a non-clearcut approach) to gauge the likelihood of achieving public acceptability. While there is some guidance in the literature on levels of removal and percent alteration, in practice it is very hard to predict the final visual outcome. Designing VR to meet public acceptability without incurring higher costs, forgoing volume, or conflicting with ecological or other sustainable forest management objectives is currently a very subjective endeavor. The present report summarizes work undertaken as part of a pilot research project aimed at investigating public acceptability thresholds in conjunction with the use of variable retention. The pilot nature of the present work should be kept in mind, and in this regard the present research project was undertaken as such: keeping in mind the need to identify strengths and possible weaknesses along the way in order to provide better guidance for future research endeavors on this topic, while providing preliminary results and data analysis, and a discussion on potential implications for forest managers. Studies such as that presented in this report are intended to develop practical, scientifically based guidelines for managers on thresholds of visual acceptability using a variety of operationally feasible variable retention harvesting methods.
Drawing on Weyerhaeuser's unique and extensive database of VR blocks and photographic documentation, CALP researchers (using perception-testing facilities at UBC) collected scientifically valid measures of public perceptual responses, in order to shed light on validating and 'nailing down' the 'BCTV test' thresholds as the basis for initial discussion of practical guidelines. Such research projects will contribute to providing more definite standards against which ecological and economic indicators should be balanced.
More specifically, the questions of public acceptability and of scenic beauty of various harvesting practices, were investigated, as well as the question of public perceptions regarding the practice of clearcutting, in order to shed light on some of these crucial thresholds. Section 1.3 below provides a more detailed description of these thresholds, along with a brief background and rationale for the present research project.
As for the structure of the report, it goes as follows. The present section (Section 1.0) consists of the report introduction, while the methodology used for the perception experiment is contained in Section 2.0. Section 3.0 presents initial results of the public perception experiment undertaken at UBC as part of this pilot research project. A discussion of the results obtained, including potential implications for forest managers, and recommendations for future research endeavors is included Section 4.0. Conclusions are included in Section 5.0.

For further information, please contact Derek Ferguson

Updated September 08, 2005 

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