Making clearcuts less ugly


Over the past several years, OFRI has surveyed Oregonians on how they view forest management. One consistent finding is that people don’t like clearcuts. Discussions during focus groups and informal visits indicate the main reason for these feelings is aesthetics: Most people consider clearcuts just plain ugly.

Learning about the natural forest cycle, and how clearcuts mimic natural disturbances such as fire, can help people understand clearcuts. But it still doesn’t help them like them. A better way to combat the negative perception of clearcuts is through visual management – a collection of concepts that help foresters plan timber harvests so they are more aesthetically appealing.

The concepts include:

  • Leaving residual patches of trees to visually break up the clearcut.
  • Avoiding straight cutting boundaries. Straight lines rarely occur in nature, and the human eye views them as intrusions.
  • Limiting the size of clearcuts, so viewers can see where they end. If a clearcut goes to the top of a ridge, the natural visual assumption is that it continues over the ridge top. If people see the boundary, they know where it ends.
  • Designing clearcuts that fit naturally into the landscape and the residual forest.
  • Cleaning up slash piles, trash and other debris.

Foresters can implement these visual management concepts using modern photo and visualization software that shows how the clearcut will appear from various angles and distances. This is especially useful to see how clearcuts will look from key travel corridors.

To help foresters learn these visual management tools, OFRI is co-sponsoring a pair of workshops with the Oregon Forest Industries Council, Washington Forest Protection Association and the Western Forestry and Conservation Association. The workshops will be held April 13 in Springfield and April 19 in Grand Mound, Wash.

The workshop will include teaching and reviewing visual management concepts and tools developed by Dr. Gordon Bradley, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington. Loren Kellogg, an emeritus professor at Oregon State University, will highlight some operational and safety considerations, and OSU professor Doug Maguire will discuss silvicultural considerations. We will also examine a local case study, and I’ll present the OFRI clearcutting survey findings.

Registration for the sessions in open; you can find detailed workshop information at the WFCA website. Please join us and learn what you can do to make our harvest units more socially acceptable.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

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