A visual management zone was identified and represented in the BCFS analysis base case. This zone consisted of areas with known 'retention' and 'partial retention' visual quality objectives (VQOs), but excluded visually sensitive areas in the selection zone (since partial-harvest prescriptions can accommodate these VQOs), and in the special Spruce Lake and Mid-Stein zones. Areas having a 'modification' VQO were not included in the visual management zone for the analysis, because it was believed that management in these areas would be similar to the cover requirements of the IRM zone. This left 7756 ha (3 percent) of the harvesting land base in the visual management zone. The timber supply analysis specified that no more than 14 percent of this zone could be less than 6 metres tall at any time.
Since the timber supply analysis, the District Manager has approved interim VQOs along major travel corridors and at significant recreation sites. These new VQOs are being applied on an interim basis and will be assessed as part of a public LRMP process. Therefore, retention and partial retention interim VQOs currently constitute a total of 56 184 ha (22 percent) of the timber harvesting land base. This figure is difficult to compare to the 7756 ha used in the timber supply analysis owing to the overlap of VQOs with other management zones. Nonetheless, the area under the interim retention and partial retention VQOs is larger than originally assumed in the base case.
A number of public comments expressed concern about the visual impact of logging operations within the TSA and the effect they could have on tourism.
The BC Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture expressed an interest in working with the Lillooet Forest District to address visual quality concerns. The CLMA expressed concern that the VQOs assumed in the base case may not be appropriate because they have not undergone a public review process, and that the forests not in the timber harvesting land base could be used to address visual quality.
I recognize that there is some uncertainty about the amount of area that should be considered visually sensitive, and I support the district's plan to obtain public input on the issue. I consider the LRMP to be a suitable public forum for discussion on appropriate VQOs, and any resulting changes can be modelled in the timber supply analysis supporting the next AAC determination within five years.
The Minister of Forests has expressed the provincial socio-economic objective of ensuring an appropriate balance between protecting visual resources and minimizing the impact of such protection measures on timber supplies, recognizing that visual quality objectives may overlap with other objectives now required under the Code (see below, Economic and social objectives and Appendix 4).
In this respect, I recognize that, on one hand, the BCFS base case may underestimate to some extent the area currently assumed to be in the visual management zone, but, on the other hand, I also recognize that timber supply impacts of VQOs can be reduced by improved coordination with other objectives under the Code, by improved design practices, by the use of alternative silvicultural systems, and by the relaxation of green-up requirements in areas with good cutblock design. Some BCFS staff believe the much larger area in VQOs than modelled will result in a net decrease in the timber supply, but due to the degree of uncertainty present, I find the potential for restricting or increasing timber supply to be currently unpredictable. I believe, as noted above, that the LRMP process is a suitable forum for public discussion of VQOs in context of an appropriate balance with other values, and any changes resulting from these discussions can be incorporated in the next AAC determination. In this determination I have made no specific adjustment to the projected timber supply respecting potential changes in visual quality management.