The Landscape Guide

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Forestry and afforestation: landscape planning and environmental impact design (EID)

The landscape of forestry

Forest Policy

  1. Forestry should be subject to planning control and subsidies should be linked to the provision of public goods.
  2. Forest landscape plans  should be set forth in public documents, with simplified versions displayed in visitor centres and similar places. 
  3. Forest landscape plans should explain how the design has been related to existing features; how the design concept for the forest was generated; visual quality objectives; areas of broadleaf retention and planting; silvicultural systems; conservation areas; areas which will become old growth woodland; habitat creation areas; wildlife networks; recreational networks; art trails; story trails; provision for hunter-gathering; historic trails; the provision of footpaths, bridleways, cycle paths and other recreation facilities; integration with agriculture and other nearby land uses.  Some 'forests' should be managed as woods, others as wilderness.
  4. Decisions about priorities will be based on an environmental assessment of forest location and site characteristics. There is a great need for foresters to consider the wider context and to become expert in EID.
  5. Foresters can help to create a national web of greenspace open to the public. Wherever possible lake shores, ridge lines, viewpoints, streams, recreational facilities, long distance footpaths and scenic areas should be incorporated.
  6. Forestry has an important role in and around urban areas. 
  7. In rural areas the web land should be subject to retention policies so that it stands between zones of 'maximum modification' in the same way that hedgerows and farm woodlands make compartments in the agricultural landscape.

With this, again, comes forestry: no mere tree-cropping, but silviculture, arboriculture too, and park-making at its greatest and best. Patrick Geddes (Geddes 1915: 95).

Woods and forests can be the most wonderful places: beautiful and productive, with sparkling streams, bright pools, dark swamps, open glades, black groves, broad moors and high mountains. They can have fresh seedlings, thrusting saplings, mature trees, ancient trees and rotting trees with fascinating fungi. Animal life should be a great part of the forest: insects, fish, birds, mice, squirrels, badgers, foxes and deer. They need a wide range of habitats with great plant diversity. Forestry should be conceived as a multi-objective cultural endeavour: no mere tree cropping, timber farming or biomass production. Science helps foresters but scientific forestry is something of a contradiction: if a wood is managed on single-objective scientific principles, it will cease being a forest. In human terms, it is like treating women as reproductive systems.The obstacles which lie in the path of good forestry are as follows:

  • Forest clearance, especially of ancient woods, can yield a financial profit but has many adverse side effects: soil erosion, nutrient loss, water pollution, landslides, flooding, reduced wildlife habitat, loss of recreational value, loss of species diversity, increased fire hazard, increased risk from insects and disease.
  • Plantation forestry cannot be 'commercial' in any ordinary sense of the word, because it takes more than one human lifetime for trees to reach maturity. Requiring foresters to be 'commercial' is bound to lead to short-termism and bad practice.
  • If communities are to invest money in long-term forestry, they have every right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  • Scientific forestry emphasises wood production and neglects such public goods as recreation, hunter-gatherer foods, scenic quality, soil conservation and nature conservation. Forest planning requires an appreciation of the natural sciences, the social sciences and the fine arts. Foresters do not often have this knowledge, and they need to remember that science tells us about means, not ends.
  • Good forestry is most likely to flourish under special management and planning laws, which enable a balance to be struck between public and private interests as they affect forestry and other land uses operating within or adjoining forest lands. These include agriculture, rough grazing, wilderness, water gathering, transport, housing, mineral extraction, recreation and nature conservation.

Iit is easy to find out when and where forests are well-run. An American forester explains the method: "You don't have to be a professional forester to recognise bad forestry any more than you need to be a doctor to recognise ill-health. If logging looks bad, it is bad. If a forest appears to be mismanaged, it is mismanaged. But a certain level of expertise is needed if you are going to be effective in doing something about it (Robinson 1988: ix)" . By this criterion Britain's state-run forests are mismanaged.

Multiple-use forestry Multiple use' has multiple meanings.

(a) Six uses in one compartment

(b) Six uses in six non-overlapping compartments

(c) Six uses in overlapping compartments

(d) Six uses overlapping with each other with other uses outside the forest.

British forestry

Historically, forest management was less single-minded.

Criticism of plantation forestry Plantations have been hated for centuries.

Sympathetic design Forest design requires forest designers.

The new conifer landscape New tree species lead to new styles.

The broadleaf policy Broadleaf species have been rooted out.

Forest parks Forest parks are duller than they need be.

Conservation and recreation Forest recreation can be profitable.

Private forestry Private forestry is both better and worse than state forestry.

Silviculture Selection forestry is best for the environment.

Community forestry Land, money and laws are necessary.

Forest landscape plans Forests need multi-objective landscape plans.

The chief success of British Forestry, apart from wood production, has been the visual integration of forestry with other land uses. The chief weakness of British Forestry has been the internal management of plantations for multiple objectives. Citics of plantation forestry should re-focus their attention on the internal management of forests. When they look badly managed, they are badly managed. To improve matters, comprehensive landscape plans of the type recommended by Dame Sylvia Crowe, in 1978, should be prepared for each and every forest:

Forest Biomas See note from L-Arch on measuring forest biomass.


Article on forest landscape design


Countryside Commission, 1987. Forestry in the countryside.

Crowe, S. 1978. The landscape of forests and woods. [Forestry Commission Booklet No. 44]. London:HMSO.

Harrison, R.P. 1992. Forests, the shadow of civilization. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.

Helliwell, D.R. 1982. Options in forestry. Chichester:Packard Publishing.

Lucas, O. 1984. The Forestry Commission. Landscape Design No. 150 August 1984 p. 10.

Robinson, G. 1988. The forest and the trees. Washington DC:Island Press.

Turner, T, Landscape planning and environmental impact design. London:UCL Press 1998 Chapter 8