Workshop puts focus on sustainable forestry

Does good forestry sometimes look bad? Do public perceptions of good forestry match the reality? Those are among the key questions to be asked in a groundbreaking international workshop at UBC from Feb. 24-27.

"Linking Forest Sustainability to Aesthetics: Do People Prefer Sustainable Landscapes?" is part of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Exploratory Workshop Programs. It is open to the UBC community.

"The public clearly equates visual degradation of landscapes with unsustainable practices," says Stephen Sheppard, workshop organizer and an associate professor of Forest Resources Management and Landscape Architecture.

"Experts seem to be divided -- some see a strong association between ecological health and visual quality; others think sustainable forest practices don't fit the conventional public perception of attractive landscapes," he says. "A new aesthetic is needed."

Sheppard believes that widely differing perceptions of landscape quality must be resolved through research and education if there is to be lasting public support for sustainability in forest resource management.

An interdisciplinary group of researchers at UBC, led by the Faculty of Forestry, is hosting the workshop which includes ecologists, forest resource scientists and perception experts. They will debate relationships between ecology and aesthetics and develop research plans to help find answers.

The public and practitioners will have an opportunity to interact with visiting scientists at the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing in UBC's new Forest Sciences Centre on Feb. 26, from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The workshop will also explore how to link forest ecosystem modeling to state-of-the-art virtual reality displays, in order to test the social acceptability of future forest management plans.

"New computer visualization technology is emerging with exciting possibilities for bridging the gap between disciplines and between forestry experts and lay people," says Sheppard.

A public open house session, on Friday afternoon, Feb. 27, will feature an unprecedented gathering of state-of-the-art computer visualization programs.

Funding from the Peter Wall Institute and the Faculty of Forestry has made the participation of international researchers and the general public possible.

Speakers include Daniel Botkin, a leading author and Biology professor at George Mason University, Jeff Burley, director of Oxford University's Forestry Institute, and Terry Daniel, a professor of Psychology and Renewable Natural Resources at the University of Arizona.

For more information check the Web site,, or contact Sandra Schinnerl at 604-822-9627.