Research project providing guidelines on improving scenic quality of harvests in Pacific Northwest federal forests wins award for author Rob Ribes, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Oregon

EUGENE, Oregon , December 13, 2013 (press release) – Rob Ribe, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Oregon, has been selected for a 2013 Oregon ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) research award for his 20-year, peer-reviewed study assessing how to improve the scenic quality of harvests in Pacific Northwest federal forests.

Ribe's study is the first to use public perceptions to derive guidelines that relate forest structure and harvest design data to the U.S. Forest Service’s scenic integrity standards. His research included public perception surveys and photographic inventories over twenty years.

Ribe was contracted by in 1993 by the Forest Service to develop management guidelines to achieve more scenically beautiful and socially acceptable harvests in different landscape contexts. National Forests are required to meet scenic integrity standards, and in doing so have faced new challenges under the Northwest Forest Plan. Few forests, however, have the benefit of design guidance by a staff landscape architect. Ribe’s findings were intended to provide such guidance for both large and small landscapes.

Ribe’s project provides evidence-based design guidelines to achieve improved scenic quality. The findings compared perceptions of beauty and acceptability among people with different ideological attitudes toward timber harvests and forest management. Peer-reviewed methods were employed to produce six journal articles and the summary report.

The project scope included taking thousands of photographs in national and state forest lands in western Oregon and Washington and conducting surveys that were mailed to individuals or presented in public workshops. More than a thousand people were asked to rate the photos for “scenic beauty or acceptability.” More than 200 students and forty agency and university scientists assisted.

The resulting scenic integrity guidelines will aid landscape architects and forest planners in making visual impact assessments for future projects.

The study’s final summary report, “Public Perceptions of West-side Forests: Improving Visual Impact Assessments and Designing Thinnings and Harvests for Scenic Integrity,” was published by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in August.

The awards were presented at the ASLA Oregon Chapter design awards presentation on November 1 in Portland.

Ribe teaches in the UO Department of Landscape Architecture. He also coauthored a recent article in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

- from the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts
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